Monday, January 31, 2005

Movie's and the Media(especially TV)

Considering movie's like Groundhog Day, Up Close and Personal, Anchorman, and the litany of TV sitcoms and dramas about Television Newsrooms it's no wonder some people think of the media as vultures.

However, I think you could take any industry from Doctors, Lawyers, Cops and Bankers to the movie making industry itself and find objections to real life. Ask members of any given profession how their job is portrayed in the movies and they will tell you how silly they think they appear on the silver screen or the boob-toob. And the technical imppossibilities? Well, it is the movies.

Personally I think we the media are so close to our profession that we examine things in such detail that we cringe when we see the rolling
sat truck going live or the polished reporter counting down to a LIVE SHOT!

"Five, Four, Three...I'm live at..."

But cops do the same thing about shows like CSI, and movies like Lethal Weapon.

Doctors probably cringe at some of the stuff on ER and HOUSE, MD.

And have you ever seen Top Gun or Days of Thunder? Two great Tom Cruise Movies that I could watch a million times over and barely get tired of, but they are a far cry from depicting true to life events, as they could really happen.

The fact is that movie's have to take creative liberty with most aspects of real life to make them interesting to the ordinary viewer. They have to spice it up a bit to hold on to the audiences or they wouldn't make any money. There are plenty of movie's out there that get plain boring and don't make any money because they don't hold the viewers because they tried to make it too real. (I am searching my brain for an example)

Can you imagine if we would have had to endure a scene in 'Up Close and Personal' where they actually put the mast up, hook up the cables, sent bars and tone while tuning the shot, did a mic check, adjusted their lighting, and practiced their lines just before going live. Even I wouldn't stick around to watch that crap.

Those details aren't important no matter what kind of job you are portraying.

Am I defending Hollywood's use of the media as carnivorous packs out for blood? NO. But they could do a better job of making us look more professional, but what fun would that be!!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Business of TV News

Television News is a business and sometimes between the fancy graphics and silly gimmicks on late nights with cold weather we seem to forget that. It is a viewer driven medium, and nothing will stop that, as long as the viewer holds the remote to the TV in one hand and the Playstation in another, all while trying to blog with the computer keyboard on his/her lap.

But an annonymous poster on the TV Photojournailst Website B-Roll-dot-net recently decried the money grubbing ways of Local Television Newrooms. Having responded to a post about a 'Fear This' bumper sticker with a dude holding a New Camera on it, the poster showed his/ her animus to Television News through comments like:

  • "Local news is no longer a forum for journalism. It's about the quick and easy grab for viewers."
  • "Local news is meant to titilate and grab viewers before they pick up the remote."
  • (sarcastically)"Putting that camera in a crying mom's face who lost their child in a car crash, now that's good TV. And yes, I've knocked on those doors for those soundbites myself."
  • "Don't ever be fooled, in the end it's about the green. "

But honestly I agree with those statements in general. The full context
of the posting is worth a quick read, but this is how I respond to the annonymous poster calling him/herself 'I Think'.

'I Think' ,

You said, "Local news is no longer a forum for journalism. It's about the quick and easy grab for viewers."

I disagree. Local news is a forum for journalism that depends on viewers to survive.

It is imperitave and a must to titilate and grab viewers before they pick up the remote and turn to someone else's more titilating content.

It is a business after all and it has to attract veiwers in order to get other businesses to decide to spend their money on advertising to make their product more attractive so that our viewer will go to their business and spend more money that they can eventually come back to us with for more advertising. (BREATH!)

It's been like that since the day that commercial TV signed on. Any TV show on the public airwaves has to support itself or it gets yanked, including news. Any TV station operating needs to support itself, regardless of the ownership group or big profits from co-owned stations that could prop it up. No profit equals no station, or at least a major revamping. (Just ask ABC 45 WXLV in Winston-Salem, NC which has news again after all the employees were laid off and later a new operation was started.)

The things we do to make viewers watch can sometimes seem silly on the surface, but usually have a point buried somewhere below the promotional makeup that attracts the demographic that we are after.

Weather is a great example as I sit here in North Carolina under a nice little winter ice storm. I may be in the news business, but I certainly tuned in to see the radar, the traffic report and the latest video so that I could gather information about how bad the roads may be in other places.

Everyone has things to do and to be able to gather basic information from a news and weather report can help when having to be out and about in a winter (or other) weather mess.

And it's really getting bad around here tonight (much like 2 years ago when the lights went out here at my house for 3 days after the ice rained down) and my wife just came looking for batteries for the electronic devices we may need to use, and I warmed up the Kerosene heater to be on standby to take over for the Electric heat pump if needed.

It may not be "Hard hitting "Big J"", but it is neccessary and expected by John and Jane Viewer.

You are right in saying that the airing of house fires and shootings in crack neighborhoods are not stories protecting the rights of the viewers. But they are the facilitator for letting the viewers know about a problem in certain areas. Without shedding a light on certain elements of our communities we may as well beleive that these situations don't even exist at all. And ignoring the problem is the first way to make it grow.

We do a lot of stories about the woes of the school systems and even more about the way local government choose to throw away our hard earned money. You are correct again. Nine times out of Ten, they aren't sexy enough to stop the remotes from clicking away. It is up to me and my collegeus in TV News to entice the viewer want to watch through powerfull storytelling and beautiful pictures that capture the moments and emotion of human life. Moments that are important to the viewers.

I despise covering death as much as anyone in the business, but I also have a philosophy that showing one person's misery may be the thing that saves many others from a similar fate. Your 'lost their child in a car crash' example is a good one, because if ONE teenager sees how another one died by acting foolish, maybe that teen or their parent will think about the consequenses and take action to prevent the same deadly thing from recurring. But you can't really track that through statistics.

As far as Fox, UPN and WB news affiliates further diluting the talent and viewership pool, well the UPN and ABC station here are the exact same staff. The CBS and FOX affils in Raleigh are virtually the same staff. And this trend can probably relate a WB/NBC combo somewhere in the nation, though nothing comes to mind.

Thr FOX O&O that I work for is more like what you would think of as a 'traditional' newsroom, yet on the cutting edge of creativity to keep the viewers happy without going overboard with silly gimmicks.

Yes in the end it is about the green. Can't fool me because I know it is.

It's my job to make the viewer watch my story to make the advertising process work. That doesn't mean that the advertising process is on my mind as I gather news stories, but that I know that each and every story has to be the best it can be to attract the most viewers across the board.

And I don't have a problem with corporate reacting in a negative way if our station's February book is less that par. (I don't think it will be, by the way)

But it is business after all.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's almost NASCAR season again!!!

It's almost NASCAR Season again. The Daytona 500 is less than a month away, and this week was the annual Lowes Motor Speedway Media Tour of all of the NASCAR team race shops.

Being the NASCAR nut that I am, I was lucky enough to get to cover Tuesday's tour which made stops at Joe Gibbs Racing, Ray Evernham Racing, and Richard Childress Racing or more specifically , the Childress Winery that Richard Childress opened last October. You have to check that place out. It's AWESOME!!!

The list of drivers and high profile NASCAR people we got to interview is prettty good for one day:

Joe Gibbs - Washington Redskins Head Coach, Nextel Cup Team Owner- 20, 18, 11.
Tony Stewart- Nextel Cup Driver
Bobby Labonte- Nextel Cup Driver
Jason Leffler
- Nextel Cup Driver
Ray Evernham- Nextel Cup Team Owner- 9, 19, 91
Bill Elliott- Nextel Cup Driver
Kasey Kahne- Nextel Cup Driver
Jeremy Mayfield- Nextel Cup Driver
Kevin Harvick- Nextel Cup Driver
Dave Blaney- Nextel Cup Driver
Jeff Burton- Nextel Cup Driver
Richard Childress- Nextel Cup Team Owner- 29, 31, 07 (owned Dale Earnhardt's 3 Car also)

Next Time...How we navigated through 3 race shop stops with several hundred other members of the media.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Monday Luck

Monday. The first day of the workweek. The day that follows the weekend that should, by all accounts, be a slow news day. So it was no surprise to me that our Monday story about a new program at the local Community College was going to consist of one interview in an office with no accompanying video opportunity, then a break for lunch, then another interview. The afternoon interview came with the chance for b-roll that would satisfy our mandated daily dose but then another hour-long layover slowed our day back to a crawl . All this for a seminar for anyone intersted in starting their own business in Davidson County. Three people showed up.

But we had our story in the bag and we headed back to the station, a mear 12 minute drive up Business 85, and we didn't even have to be LIVE today!

But 6 minutes into the trek and my 2 scanners began to howl like my 4 dogs on the fourth of July.

"Station 91, 92, 43....Mobile Home Fire....235 Red Oak Drive", cried the lady dispatcher from the Lexington 911 center. I perked up, but in a relaxed manner, hearing the cross streets and realizing that it would not be practical to drive the 15 miles down to the scene for a mobile home that may or may not really be burning.

Before volunteers from the 3 stations could even hit the road, the yelp of the scanners filled the truck again, "Station 43, Medic 1, Medic 20, 29-Bravo response." This was lingo I am very familiar with. The 29 means an auto accident, the Bravo means it's not too serious but hurry up anyway.

"This was nothing to worry about" I thought silently, as I muttered aloud "Gosh, Station 43 is getting hammered today",

We continued on course until the details of the accident gave us both a case of whiplash as we realized what we had just heard, where we were and my foot stompe the brake pedal.

A school bus had collided with 2 other cars...a couple of students were reported to be injured.

The tires gripped the pavement as we whipped a quick U-turn headed back up a southbound service road. The wreck was only 3 miles from our location....we were going to be there before some of the emergency units.

My reporter got on the phone with the war room at the station, and I grabbed a map to plot my best course of navigation. Less than 5 minutes later we were on the scene staring at a badly damaged school bus and 40 displaced teens.

I racked off shot after shot of the scene working my way closer with each new shot. The buses front wheels cocked over at a nearly 90 degree angle to their intended position and the students were huddled in the front yard the house that sat at the T- intersection. As I moved closer to the scene and saw that the EMS workers were busy with 2 students. The injuries weren't serious but they were enough to warrant a ride on gurney and a trip to the E-R..

My phone rang and a familiar voice was on the other end, my buddy Stewart 'Lenslinger' Pittman. 'Hey, where do I need to bring your livetruck."

"Go south to Pilot School, turn left, go to the end, turn right, go to the stop sign, turn left, go to the end, turn right, we will be in front of ya."

As my reporter came back from the newscar with my Orange Wal*Mart Fleece and my matching Mechanix Wear Gloves, that I had forgotten in my haste to quickly document the scene, we were set to make this story complete.

Enough time had elapsed to allow the scene to calm down a bit before approaching for any interviews. When we did make the move for 'sound on tape' we were able to talk to the principal, who came to the scene, a student, who was waiting for a parent, and a couple of witnesses who described how the little red sports car had ran through the stop sign.

By the time we had enough sound to fill up the 5 and 6 o'clock news I spotted our Live truck stuck in the traffic blocked by the school bus. I met Stewart and his ride along helper 'the intern' down by my parked news vehicle, and we made the gear swap. I gave him the low down on how I had stumble across this gem of a visual story, almost lamenting the fact that I had worked myself into a long day, knowing that the next day's work would be starting at 7:30 am on Tuesday.

I barely even remember the next 2 and a half hours. Stewart took off in my Explorer, I don't even know if I said "Thanks for the help!", I positioned the live truck out of the way of the High Voltage lines overhead and the next thing I knew we were Live at 5 with a 1 minute 'Package' and Live at 6 with a 40 second 'mini-package'.

And It all came off as if we had all day to get it done.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Kathy Irelands' Tits

Arriging back to the TV Station after shooting the early morning Kathy Ireland Dog and Pony show back in October I saw one of our Assignment Editors hanging out at the side entrance. As I passed by her on my way into the building she said to me, "I'm sorry about this morning."

I thought she was talking about wanting me to cover another event in an inadequate amount of time, but as it turns out, she told me, it was what she had said in the morning meeting after trying to contact me while I was at the Kathy Ireland event.

They needed to rush me back from this event for a schedule change on a series shoot I had, but because of the nature of this event my phone was on silent. With me unreachable, and the managers growing irritated, her nerves apparently grew frazzled when the bosses kept asking about me and she abrubtly snapped back, "He's probably looking at her tits because he's not answering the phone."

She was upset with herself about about the outburst, but I laughed it off and told her that it was funny because it IS typical of me....C-Roll(shot of something nice to see) if it's right there in front of me. But I'm not ignoring the phone just to get a reel of good looking girls, mind you.

Kathy wasn't in perfect form that day though. She was all business in a pant suit with a fairly loose shirt that was buttoned all the way up to her chin.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Two Celebrities; One Day

Twice a year here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, the Grandaddy of all trade shows comes to High Point bringing in more than 80,000 visitors and oodles of celebrity furntiure mavens.
This past October my personal Furniture Market coverage began at 9am at a local middle school where Kathy Ireland was doing a PTA presentation. After Ireland and several other local officials had their say it was time for an impromtu press conference. I waited patiently as several print reporters wrapped up their exclusive, individual, week long Q&A of Ms Ireland. Us TV folks (Myself, the CBS affilliate Phojo, A Freelance crew for the Today Show and a crew from the school system) did a gang bang interview. (TV speak for multiple crews from various outlets doing the interview simultaniously)

She was very grateful for us being there and very pleasant to deal with. Before the event she had actually walked toward where we were positioned as she talked to the school children. After a few questions were gathered on the disk I was out of their, on the way to my next assignment.

As the day continued with a series of various other shoots, my final job of the day once again found me on the trail of a celebrity. Back at the Market John Elway was going to be at the showroom where his new line of fine furnishings was being shown to buyers for the first time.

We arrived on the 12th floor at the Bassett showroom via a heavily crowded elevator about 15 minutes early. I started shooting some preliminary B-roll when I spotted Elway at the doorway. I was in a great position to get him gladhanding with all of the buyers and company reps in the showroom. But as he continued working the crowd I spotted a familiar sight in the viewfinder. Who could it be but Kathy Ireland. What a treat, a double celebrity encounter.
Elway and Ireland posed together for pictures and talked for a few minutes as I rolled on the spontanious event.

The morning sports anchor was with me and we sat Elway down for a one on one with the famous former quarterback for about ten minutes. A buddy of mine from the local Newspaper was there and he shot a photo for me as I put the lav on the ex-Bronco.

This photo was on the front page of the paper the very next day.
What a Day!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bad day to be a Photojournalist

Tuesday, January 11, 2005. Two lives were taken in a home invasion in Randolph County. It seems that 2 of Randolph County's finest citizens were in a dispute with another guy over the sum of $30. The guys who wanted to collect their $30 told the other over the phone that they were coming to his house and they threatened to kill him. They did. They also killed his friend who just happened to be at the residence.

I was at home in bed as all of this unfolded in the early morning hours. I got the call around 7 that morning to go to the scene.

Arriving on the scene I was confronted by a rather large and unruly man who told me to turn around and get the F off of his F-ing property. I was parked on the side of the state road well back from what I figured was his property so I wasn't too concerned with him at first. I put two and two together pretty quickly, as he continued to cuss me and insist that I leave, that this man was related to one of the dead. I politely told the man that I was there to help with the search for the killers by getting the informatin on the air and that as bad as I know the death of his loved one was painful, a double murder is news. I tried not to say a whole lot to him because I could tell his rage over the death of his step-son would continue to be directed at me. The mother of the dead teen soon joined her husband in yelling at me to leave the area or she would sue me for this or that or the other.

The fact that I wanted footage of their mobile home where a terrible crime had occured, even from the street, was unfathomable for the couple. The man's words soon turned to threats as he told me that if I got out of the car and got a camera out that 'It's on!', meaning that he was going to come after me. He made several other statements, but that one sticks with me the most.

I decided that the best course of action would be to just pull away from this area and get footage from a different location. I attempted to pull forward, but the man stepped into my path and wouldn't let me go. He wanted me to leave, but he wouldn't let me. It was strange. We played a little back and forth tango with me shifting from D to R and him sidestepping to keep me at bay.

I was able to waive a deputy over to my vehicle and she tried to calm the man down, but he was adament that I leave, but the deputies told him that I didn't have to. The deputies asked me to stay in my car while they talked to the man but after they talked to the man they told me to stay in the car and not get the camera out.

The man was still yelling from a distance continueing his threat that if I got the camera out 'it would be on.' I didn't even want to know what 'IT' would be, considering the size of this guy.

I sat unhappily in the car and waited for the live truck and reporter who was on the way even before the confrontation started. When he arrive he was also advised by deputies to stay in the vehicle. He joined me in my news unit and we talked about what we should do and what the ramifications of our actions could be. I kind of figured that if I tried to get out and shoot that this enraged man would probably get to me before a deputy could even stop him.

It wasn't long before scanner traffic indicated that the remaining suspect who was at-large was apprehended. We saw the Sheriff sprint to his vehicle and peel out of the area. We put the newscar in Drive to follow. The StepDad motioned for us to roll our windows down and he said we needed to follow the sheriff. Since he was now being pleasant to us I asked him if he knew the exact location.

He said, 'Yeah, go that way and get on the bypass and (now yelling) KEEP GOING TO F-ING GREENSBORO AND GET YOUR ASSES AWAY FROM US.'

I was stunned. That was quite a little show he put on. We left and tried to follow the sheriff to the scene. We ended up just waiting at the Sheriff's Department for the suspect to show up. Deputies had the suspect in for questioning before we arrived at the Department, so we waited from 10 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon for the suspect to be led out of the building and be taken to the jail.

At this point we still needed to go back to the scene and get footage to go in our story. When we got back to the scene, deputies were still there but the family was not. As we gathered a couple of minutes of streetside video, they wrapped up their CSI work and left. We followed suit, but went out to the Freeway View of the Property and gathered a few more shots. While we were shooting from the Freeway we heard a horn honk we looked around to see the Step Dad headed up the other side of the 4 lanes. We had to finish a standup and then we could leave. We would have just enough time before he could get to the exit and get back to our location.

Just as we were pulling away, I was still videotaping, gathering a rolling shot of the scene, you can see in the footage the minivan pull up on the side road on the opposite side of the fence that separates the Freeway from the side road that the murder happened on. The door of the minivan flung open even before the van could stop and the man hollered that he wanted to talk.

Nice words of apology came from his mouth, and we stopped our vehicle and walked up to the fence to talk to the couple. I carried my camera with me, still rolling, and we had a converation with the StepDad and the Mom. The talk with them was very cordial, as they asked us if we taped on their side of the fence. I didn't want to directly answer them, knowing it could set them off. I told them how sorry I was for their loss, and they said they appreciated that. They were telling us that they thought it was too soon for the News to show up and tape at their property and that they would do interviews later if we would leave them alone now.

We talked nice for about 5 minutes exchanging apologies and talking about how this happened. But they still wanted assurance that we weren't goint to use footage of their property on the news. I wasn't ready to lie to them outright and piss them off even more when they saw it on the news.

But when we couldn't offer an absolute promise that their property wouldn't be on the news they ended up transitioning back into the raging parents of a dead kid and began taking their anger out on us again.

The two told us how we were just ambulance chasing vultures and that we just put this stuff on the air to make a buck no matter who it hurt. We tried to assure them that it is certainly more pleasant to shoot stories about the good things people do. They balked at this concept saying that they knew for a fact that only thing that people watched new for was to see the bad stuff liked this. This was in the same breath that they admitted being loyal news junkies. I found this very interesting.

The lady talked of lawsuits and about her family member that is a lawyer. The Man said he didn't need a lawyer, that he would just take care of me personally. He said, "I want a piece of you anyway you little punk.", as he pointed at me and glared with a seriously mad look.

He dared me to come across the fence and I said I didn't need to, and then he dared me to come across the road, and I said again, no need for me to, and then he upped it again to daring me to come in his yard and see what he would do to me. I just smiled and responded that there was no reason for me to do that.

I reached down to punch the record button on my cameara as the talk now became more confrontation than talk. I had forgotten that I already had the thing rolling. So I lost everything after this point.

The reporter and I backed out of the situation as the man continued to threaten to get me, especially if their place was on the news. We got out of this situation shaking and a bit mad, and facing having to do a 5 o'clock live shot from the Sheriff's office and then leave there before the irate parents showed up to kick our asses. Then we were notified about our 6 o'clock Live shot.

I am chalkikng this one up to experience. I would like to charge the guy with threatening me and the Sheriff said he would file charges if he were me, but it would probably just piss the guy off even more and then he would have easy access to my name and address.

I did do a background check on him tonight. He served prison sentences several different times from 1980 to 1988 for Robbery, Assault with a Deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and other various charges.

PR 101 - Blonde PR Chicks

It all started as a normal day, except it was 5:43 AM instead of 8-something.

My wife jostled me awake, worried I would oversleep, but after a quick glance of the fuzzy red digits, I mumbled that the alarm was imminent. Two minutes later its drone filled the room replacing the non-silence of the wife’s sound machine. I smacked the snooze right away...and then again in few minutes. But even though I hit the snooze twice, I was still up and at ‘em at Six, and out the door by Six-Twenty.

Little did I know that I was driving straight into a PR hellhole crossed with a logistical horror. And it wasn’t because Presidential Candidate John Kerry was stumping here today.

So through the foggy, wet remains of what was Hurricane Frances, I drove to Greensboro from Thomasville, a trip that registers 17 miles on my odometer. I actually arrived early at the Power Company Compound where they had invited us to come and shoot a story that they promised to be a great visual. As I drove up to the gate of their property I hesitated to pass through the gated entry even though I could have easily slipped in behind other cars with the code. I did the right thing and went around the block to the office where the public entrance is.

I learned something about Power Companies at this point: They don’t staff their office at Six-Forty-Five in the morning. Oh Well. My next thought was to try to get a visual on any gatherings that looked like what I was there for. I checked two other gates, but no sign of any activity. I decided at 5 minutes to 7 that it would be in my best interest to breach their so-called security so that I could find a warm body that could tell me where to go. I followed an employee through the open sliding gate and drove up to the building where a myriad of Bucket Trucks were backed in to their respective spots.

I found the first well dressed, should have a clue, looking person and asked where the staging area was for the trucks that were heading to Florida to help restore the power that Hurricane Frances had swiped. He pointed me back in the direction of all of the perfectly parked apparatus.

I grabbed my gear and walked up onto the dock easing around in and between guys who where shuttling a variety of gear; power parts, water-coolers and the occasional suitcase. I threw out a query here and there to get a feel for the scene. Some of the guys joked that they had left yesterday. I frowned and they laughed. They were referring to a power subcontractor that HAD left Monday headed to Florida. I finally ran across a couple of Power guys who were in the group that were preparing to head south, so I spread the Gitzo and plopped the Betacam on top and began the process that we know as B-roll. I watched and listened, and wondered silently why there were no PR flacks there to collar us and attach their leashes for this event they so cordially invited us to. I watched as two of my fellow photog rivals arrived, also with puzzled looks about where to be and where to go.

But alas, a blonde in a very pink jacket was headed my way. Somehow I knew she wasn’t headed to Florida. The pen and the leather bound binder, her umbrella for this event, blew her cover. She politely asked me who I was with and what kind of sound would I need. I gave her what I though was a simple answer, no need to go into to many details and confuse matter. I simply wanted great sound with some guys in this group who could tell me what it’s like to work under these conditions, and what kind of feeling they get being able to help the unfortunate populace of a now twice battered Central Florida.

She jotted down my request and quickly turned her attention to someone else, a manager of the line crew I suppose. I didn’t stand around there long before I just walked away and continued shooting.

As I was shooting and listening to everyone go about their business I isolated in on a couple of guys who I figured could give me some great sound. I walked off the raised dock area back down to ground level and out in front of the trucks. I was shooting on the tripod but shuffled the camera to my shoulder to go in close for some sound with the linemen. Over my shoulder was another shooter from the competition who saw the same guy at the same time, and we walked toward him together getting a quick shot of him stowing some gear in the truck. I threw out a question to him, but he didn’t exactly give me the magic soundbyte. I lobbed another softball and this time he gave me useable material. That was all I needed and I thumbed the camera to pause, and looked around for another person to attach to .

Looking right then left, I spotted a guy in a straw cowboy hat. I had overheard him say earlier, in jest, not to put him on tape, that the authorities might see him on TeeVee. That’s as good a reason as any that I know of to get a shot or two of him. I followed him around to the passenger side of the truck as he carried a pair of boots to put away. He smiled as his co-workers cheered my move. My first question was about the shirt he was wearing. It said ‘Fear Nothing’, so I quipped that the shirt was appropriate and he agreed saying there was no other frame of mind. As he eased back around to the other side of his rolling office I started to ask him the same questions I had told Miss PR that I would be looking for answers to. He was a pretty good sound byte but as I was throwing out the second question a tug at my right arm and his concerned look grabbed my attention.
As I swung the still rolling camera around I saw in the viewfinder that it was Miss PR. Her lips were moving but at first I did not comprehend, probably from sheer shock, maybe from anger. She had interrupted me to inform me that I needed to leave the guys alone, that they were busy and needed to finish packing their trucks. As she continued to insist that I start moving away immediately I went into defense mode. I told her that these were the shots and sound that I had told her I needed and she fired back that they were getting a guy who could speak well to come out and give us a sound byte. I passionately explained to her that the guy she had so rudely interrupted me from was more than adequate. She loudly told me that they needed to be working on packing their gear and were way too busy to be doing interviews. I quickly pointed out that she should look over her shoulder and observe the guy in the straw cowboy hat standing with his arms crossed, carrying on with a fellow worker, far longer than I would have needed to finish the interview. She followed that up with something about it being too dangerous around the trucks and as I rolled my eyes she snottily reminded me that they were working with us and would have a guy for us to interview shortly. I went beyond the line at this point. I said in my best sarcastic overtones, “Who, some guy who’s going to come out here and say, ’WEEEE ARRRRRE GOINNNNNG TOOOOOOO FIXXXXX THEEEEEE POWWWWERRRRR.’” Just imagine some underpaid linemen reading scripted PR propaganda. She gave me a pretty ugly look and told me she was going to call my bosses and I gave her their names and numbers.

We got what I predicted out of their pre-determined interview. She even orchestrated the background of the shot and tried to pretend she knew what she was talking about telling the interviewee where he should look and how he should stand.

We finished up the interview and remained at a great distance from the trucks shooting the occasional rolling vehicle. Now 7:50 am, the trucks were late leaving and I was pushing the clock on my next post hurricane related assignment. I called over to Lowes to see if by any chance their hurricane relief crew would be running behind their scheduled departure time of 8:00 AM. ‘No‘, a manager told me, ‘they left 30 minutes early.’ GREAT. I guess I missed that one. I checked my press release to reassure myself they their PR person had told us to be their at 8. YEP 8. Go Figure.

The Power trucks finally pulled away at about Eight-Twenty after much debate between Miss PR and us the other two phojos about which way they would pull out. She never really spoke directly to me again, and that was fine with me.

I got my final shot through the rain as they rolled toward the sunshine state. The lineman in the straw cowboy hat gave me a friendly salute and a big smile.

I decided I had better call another Lowes in a neighboring city to check on their hurricane relief crew. No luck. The last van was leaving the parking lot as the woman on the other end looked out the door to give me an answer.

Oh Well.

When I got back to the station I filled in the Assignment Manager in on my troubles. He assured me a call was in order to Miss PR and her boss. That was a victory right there.

That would be the end of this thriller, but as I was writing this account of my encounter with the blond PR chick gone mad, the power flashed off and on and then off again here at my house. It stayed out for 45 seconds and then was back on. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. I turned up the scanner to get the lowdown on the power flicker. Was it storm related or a conspiracy against me by Miss PR. Neither. A car wrecked into a power pole about 3 miles up the road taking out a main feeder power line.

I went up to the scene and knocked off about 10 minutes worth of my finest 18 db grain of a car wrapped around a broken power pole. I had to walk about a quarter mile to and from my news truck in a heavy rain to get the shot. I hope the 400 people who were without power in Thomasville because of some dumbass hydroplaning across four lanes appreciate my effort.

I know the morning show producers will.

And if Frances, what’s left of her or it or whatever, keeps dumping this deluge of a tropical washdown, I will probably need to be ready to start all over again extra early on Wednesday.
At least then there probably won’t be a PR Slacker telling me how not to shoot the flooding.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Feeling the Love

The love must just be in the air for us news-types. After reading about Lenslinger's encounter at the stoplight today I found it funny that I too had my own stoplight adventure, that also happened today.
My reporter, an intern and I were running late headed to a 6 o'clock liveshot in Greensboro and while looking for the perfect location with the right background we got stuck at an extended, red, left turn signal on Lee Street trying to turn left to go north on Elm.
The light didn't turn green for us on the first cycle and while stopped and be-moaning this extra delay I looked across to my right in thoughts of just blowing the light and I saw this guy standing on the corner with both hands on his manhood, thrusting his hips, mouthing the words, 'F#&k You', to us over and over. The light seemed to last forever and the guy mouthed and thrusted until we just drove away before the red light even had a chance to turn green.
The reporter's comment on the situation; "Wow, that thing was huge!"

Monday, January 03, 2005

Winning the Game

In Sports a team wins or loses each time they play the game. The players are eligble for MVP awards that are decided by the press. The more games a team wins, the better the chance for that team to go to the Championship.

In TV news it is a similar challenge to win or lose the 'game'. TV, however, is scored by the number of viewers, which in comparison, would be like declaring the team that sells more tickets the winner.

So for TV stations and the staff that pour their creative souls into work that make newscasts and promotions attract the viewers to the 'game', the wins come in the way of awards and accolades. The best kudos come from the viewer in the form of calls and letters. But then there is the solicited recognition from a group of peers.

The choices of awards are as varied and diverse as the number of channels you can watch on cable these days.

Some of the top awards to win are Emmy's, Edward R. Murrow, State Associated Press, and for us Photojournalists there is the National Press Photographer's Association, the NPPA.

To win these acolades you have to compile an entry, fill out the paperwork, and in most cases pay exhorbenant entry fees.

Nothing like being a narcissist, is there? But one thing is for sure, nobody is going to knock down the door to bring the awards to me.
So, are these plaques, trophies and certificates that recognize short term achievment self serving? I don't really think so.

So far in my career of a short 11 years I have recieved three NC AP awards, been nominated for one Emmy, won an Edward R. Murrow, and just recently recieved a Regional NPPA Second place for Spot News.

And you can rest assured that now that 2004 is over, I have a box load of tapes ready to ship to the various enities of TV distinguishment.

I have always thrived on accomplishment, and short of actually getting the story on the air on a daily basis, the next thing to work toward is perfection in the craft and then submit the best work for judging.

Having a lofty goal keeps me from slacking off and it forces me to seize the next level of proficiency. The ideal story isn't feasible in every situation, nor on every story everyday, but if I set the objective to do great work, then as stories come and go, I won't miss opportunities to tell stories unequaled by my photojournalist counterparts. And by the end of the year I will have a reel of great work, and maybe a few more awards to hang on the wall.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Years Resolutions

Last Thursday on Christmas Eve-Eve was my last day at work before a week of vacation, which actually means replacing a leaky toilet in my house and the half rotted floor underneath it.(That story later) During that day last day on duty the reporter that I was working with and I came up with a New Years Resolution to work together on and I came up with a few individual things to work on as well.

Our team goal for 2005 is to rack up some awards for our daily toil as photojournalist and reporter. It may seem kind of petty, but being able to look back and say I did this story or that story and a group of my peers voted it to be one of the best stories in 2005 is nice. But an award still comes in second to a viewer or subject of a story giving positive feedback.

I of course have the standard resolution of wanting to boost my workout routing. I am currently running and weight-lifting two days a week. I would like to get that to 3 days a week, and I need to get on the mountain bike at least once a week.

I also want to buy a bigger house in 2005. I have 2 children and my wife has 3 and we are all squeezed into a 3 bedroom vinyl sided sardine can. I need at least one more bedroom, and something in the same school district with a yard as large as the one we have now.(the only perk to this place)

The last thing I really want to do in '05 is get a new computer with the power to edit projects at home. I have the opportunity every now and then to do a little side work so a nice Non-Linear editing platform would be a great asset to my back pocket.

Otherwise life is good, no complaints. ('cept for the house!)