Paula Zahn and producer Scott Weinberger Monday were upstate in Tomkins Cove, overlooking the Hudson, grabbing final shots for a documentary on the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.
The location, says Weinberger, worked because the Indian Point nuclear plant was in the background and fit the focus of "Nuclear Nightmare: Japan in Crisis," airing on Discovery April 28 at 10 p.m.
"Going to Japan wasn't in the cards," says Weinberger, a former TV news reporter. He got the call for the Japan project the morning after the earthquake hit.
"Old habits don't die," he says. "I wake up every morning and read the newspapers and saw some TV images coming from Japan - they were unbelievable."
The folks at Discovery asked if he wanted in and within hours the production was underway. The special is anchored by Zahn, who also hosts "On the Case With Paula Zahn," which airs Sundays at 10 on ID and is also produced by Weinberger.
"The main point for us wasn't just sort of doing the science and the nuclear story," he says. "The idea was to tell the story through other people's eyes. It wasn't just a matter of having the video, it was who could we get to be the storytellers."
So the search began. Weinberger and his Weinberger Media team were able to find an American who worked in the nuclear plant as well as a film crew that was shooting when the tsunami hit.
"It's a perspective never seen before," says Weinberger, who is producing partners with Scott Sternberg. "The interviews are riveting. Paula does an unbelievable job bringing the stories to life."
Producing specials tied to news events is how Weinberger keeps his hands in the game. He worked at WNBC/Ch. 4 before moving to WCBS/Ch. 2, where his job was cut in a downsizing that left him unemployed.
By then, though, he'd already started the groundwork for his production projects by creating "The Academy" a reality show set in a police academy.
In addition to the Japan special, he has two others in production for the Science network, both potential series. One gives viewers access to an intelligence agency - one so secret that Weinberger needed clearance for top-secret information, the other built around the FBI and local law enforcement's efforts to fight terrorism, He's also got another in the works for TruTV.
"I still love news, but I don't miss local TV," he says. "I don't miss pitching a story you believe will bring change and having it shot down because the competition has just shown up at a fire in the Bronx and we have to be competitive, knowing full well the average viewer doesn't have three TVs."
The only time he feels a twinge, he says, is during bad-weather stories, but not because he misses it.
"The first time I got to stay home with my family in a big snowstorm, I realized I had arrived," he says. "I didn't have to stand out there and have people bringing me hot cocoa because they felt bad for me."