Today’s cuppa: espresso

Thumbnail image for Fox_Business_Network_Liz_Claman.warmer.jpgAnchor and correspondent Liz Claman of Fox Business Network — she also appears on FBN’s cable-news sibling, Fox News Channel — decided to get out of the studio this week to celebrate her 600th broadcast of “Countdown to the Closing Bell,” which airs at 3 p.m. ET.

She started the week aboard a shallow-water oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the aftermath of the BP oil spill and the impact of subsequent government actions — including a moratorium on deep-water drilling (which may be lifted early) — on other drillers. Claman left the rig this morning (Tuesday, Sept. 28) to return to the FBN studios.

(Click here for video of Claman on the Hercules 201 shallow-water oil rig.)

Tonight, she heads to St. Louis to talk to McDonald’s Corp. CEO Jim Skinner, whose fast-food restaurants’ menus have also come under government scrutiny for what connection they may have to rising obesity rates. The interview is set to air Wednesday, Sept. 29, on “Countdown to the Closing Bell.”

Excerpts from Claman’s trip to the oil well aired on FNC, and other portions of her work this week may air there as well.

Claman took time from her travels on Monday to answer some email questions about her milestone week. Enjoy! (Questions in bold)

What
made you want to travel to the oil rig?

We’d been
covering the BP spill day and night. When the government imposed a deepwater-
Fox_Business_Network_Liz_Claman_Oil_Rig.JPGdrilling
moratorium a month after the well exploded, we started to hear that shallow-water
drillers were getting painted by the same brush, even though what they do and
how they do it is markedly different from what the deep-water drillers do.

When we
started to invite shallow-water drilling CEOs on Fox Business, you could hear
their worry and frustration. During one of those interviews, with the head of
Hercules Offshore, I spontaneously blurted out at the end of the interview,
“Could we come down and see how you guys operate?” Live on the air he
said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’

I felt that it
would be so easy to tell this story from an air -conditioned television studio
in Manhattan,
but that’s not the Fox Business way. We wanted to get boots on the ground, and
I’m happy to say that’s exactly what we did today.

What
were the logistical challenges of traveling to and shooting from an oil rig?

This was a
complicated shoot. Our entire crew of six: two photographers, one audio
technician, our producer Yvette Michael, along with a satellite guy and his
tech, went out to the rig weeks ago for a site survey. We had no idea if we
could establish a live TV signal from three-and-a-half miles off the Louisiana coastline.
That was the first layer of preparation.

They built
antennae for the wireless microphones, installed an entire satellite dish, and
laid hundreds of feet of cable.  They then tested 12 different
sites on the rig: everything from the deck to the helipad to the blowout
preventer, right beneath the drill itself, to inside the crew quarters. 

We all then
returned this past weekend, re-tested all the shots, and we were good to go
Monday morning. Getting there from New
York was a challenge in and of itself. We flew to Houston, drove two hours to Sulphur,
La., spent the night, and then drove an hour
to Cameron, La., on the coast this morning at 5 a.m.,
then took a 40-minute boat ride to the rig.

The crew
then hoisted us all via crane from the supply boat to the deck on what’s called
a “Billy Pugh,” which, in essence, is a little mesh cage you cling to
as it swings you onto the rig.

Fox_ Business_Network_Oil_Rig.JPGWhat
were the main issues that came up with the drillers?

They simply
cannot understand why permits aren’t being granted for shallow-water drilling.
There is no stated government moratorium on their end of the business. They
feel they have a pristine safety record and therefore are frustrated and
worried that they can’t operate their rigs. Many of them have kids they’re
trying to put through school. They sacrifice a lot for their families. This job
entails 14 on, 14 off; meaning, 14 days on the rig, then 14 days off. 
That’s difficult but the job pays well and it’s worth to them.

What did
you learn that surprised you the most?

How
disciplined they are. The rig runs like clockwork, and they take immense
pride in what they do. They are distracted by nothing. They’re completely
focused on honing their skills and updating their knowledge every step of the
way.

I also had
no idea how important the shallow -water rigs are to natural gas production in
the country. They’re responsible for extracting two-thirds of the Gulf’s
natural-gas reserves.

Natural gas is clean-burning, and we’ve got a lot of
it in this nation. Why continue to buy oil from Arab nations, many of which
don’t like us very much? Shouldn’t we be turning to these operators, and
employing folks in this country


What did
you hear that didn’t surprise you at all?

How
frustrated they are. If you produced a product that was in high demand and
someone –something– was making it nearly impossible for you to do your job
and make a living, you’d be pretty upset. Every single one of the rig
workers said they have no problem with tighter safety controls… they just
want them to be rational controls that are appropriate for their industry.

What do
you plan to discuss with McDonald’s CEO Jim
Skinner?

How does a
global giant like McDonald’s expand from here? They’re in just about every
nation, so how will they continue to grow without over-saturation?

How does he
feel about the current economic climate?

I’m really
interested to know if he feels like business is supported right now by Washington. A lot
of CEOs I speak with feel like businesses are under attack. Does he?

A lot of
his franchisee owners are small business folks. How does he feel about the
new Small Business $30 billion bill the President just signed into law?

And how the
heck does he make his French fries taste so good, no matter which state, which
city you’re in? I can’t resist.


Considering
the president’s fondness for the occasional cheeseburger while away from the White House, do you think the current anti-obesity
campaigns
will have a significant effect on fast-food
restaurant
s’ bottom lines?

We’ve
already seen some effects. You could say McDonald’s led the way
when it stopped using trans-fats and offered salads and healthier
alternatives. Fast-food restaurants are reading the writing on the wall, and if
they’re smart, they’ll at least work hard to offer at least some healthy
fare. Obesity costs employers a lot of money in healthcare bills —
including, I’m sure, McDonald’s.


Experts
seem to be disagreeing wildly on the state and near future of the economy. Is
this the most challenging time to be reporting on business?

The
challenge is to keep up with the story which continues to morph from crisis to
stabilization to further erosion to confusion.  It’s our job to tell the
story each step of the way, help viewers understand what’s really going on with their tax dollars, but also to help them
invest no matter what the economic or political climate.

Everyone
has a right to save for their retirement, but not everyone understands how to
do that. If I help one person realize that they’ve got to save money for their
future, and maybe help them get on the road to making the right investments,
then I’ve done my job.