Friday, June 30, 2006

TV Crew Arrested
When to cross that line?

When is it justifiable to go out and get yourself arrested during the course of gathering news? That is the question that comes to my mind after reading about the plight of TV Photog Cliff Erwin and Reporter Sara Sheffield.

The two were arrested just after a Live report for failing to heed the instructions of the Highway Patrol who told them to move from the spot where they were covering a building collapse.

According to other media reports they had been covering the collapse since before the sun came up and had moved back several times as police adjusted the yellow tape.

Today I recieved an email reply from someone close to the situation stating that they "were plenty far away. Not to mention the fact there were several other
journalists in the same location who were not arrested or even asked to move."

The email was brief but continued to say that Erwin and Sheffield "were in the spot local police directed (them) to earlier that morning. It’s crazy!"

Yes, that is crazy! If the public can be there so can the media. Period! It's a statement worth repeating. Hell, make it into a T-shirt and I'll wear it. If it's OK for Joe Six-Pack to walk around the damaged building or at the yellow tape then it's OK for the viewers watching my newschannel to be there through my lens as well.

But too many times an overzealous Barney gets all out of sorts about protecting the victims or protecting my safety or protecting his job and our big fancy cameras seem to set off their radars.

It seems lately to be an almost daily occurance in our jobs for someone to not want us around, to ask us to leave or to threaten our very freedom.

SO, back to my question. When is it OK to get arrested? When does it help? When does it hurt?

Certainly Sara and Cliff got their job done and made air. That is the most important factor to consider. My bosses wouldn't like it too much if they had to fill a 2 minute black hole at the last minute because I wouldn't move 50 (or however far)feet to make a point about the first ammendment or public access. It's very important to make air.

But this crew that was arrested were nearing the end of a full shift. They stood up for what was right, made their Live Shot and were still given NO CONSIDERATION from the authorities. I think in their situation they did the right thing. They took the bullet (so to speak) and hopefully that'll get the local and state authorities to take a closer look at their media relations.

The problem is that, starting with the altercation, most of these situaions create more problems than they solve on both sides. The cops spend time dealing with a sidebar problem, the media get behind on a deadline, legal problems and expenses are created for those involved, and animosity can develop between the cops and the media.

And heck, all we want is a decent place to take a picture from!

Take a swing around the web and see who's saying what about this incident...

Lenslinger Article

Bluedog Photog Blog Article

Lost Remote Article

Lost Remote Artice


News-Leader Article

B-Roll.Net Thread

Sedalia Democrat Article

Pictures of the Arrest

Saturday, June 24, 2006

TV News Streaker

I found this great video skit spoofing a streaker in the background of a Local News Live Shot. It was produced by Studio 8 Entertainment. Make sure you go pee BEFORE watching.

Link to Video

As seen on

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Long Day
Getting the Worm
(as in....Early Bird)

After about 4 hours of shut eye I rolled out of bed and rolled into the station and met Caron and we took off to the Alamance County Seat of Graham where Sheriff Terry Johnson wanted us to see some good old fashioned police work first hand.

Seems one of their veteran detectives worked his way into the crimminal element, gained their trust and started buying their stolen goods. The undercover work was so good that they were purchasing stolen merchandise before the property owner even had a chance to report it stolen.

It was even stated that the crimminals would call up the "buyer" and ask if they would buy this or that because they were going to steal one!

So this morning we arrived at 5am to head out with one of the arrest teams to watch them round up te 41 or so people that were listed on warrants obtained through the undercover operation.

We did a noon, 5 and 6 o'clock live shot. It went something like this at noon and this at 6.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


The time is drawing near (read: now) that some of my at work, work may be on the web through official means!

That excites me because I'll be able to point you to some great stories if you feel like taking a look.

So without further adeau, though not one of my best efforts, a consumer story about fake tanning that I shot and edited can now be found online.

I also did a story about packing light to travel.

But I really like this one that I didn't shoot any of...editing only!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Who's Going to Hell?

I was covering the Southern Baptist Convention the other day and after spending most of the day inside listening to the preaching, singing and other Southern Baptist Business of the day I had to head outside and across the street to see the opposition to the Baptists.

Phelps - 1

Of course as an impartial member of the media I had to observe, shoot and air their side of the story which is one filled with hate and hostility but it made my stomach turn!

These are the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. They are the ones protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. The main members of the Church are the Phelps family headed by family patriarch Fred Phelps.

Showing up carrying american flags, or rather, standing on the flag, holding them upside down, spitting on them and holding signs with nasty messages inscribed.(see pictures) the group consisted of people of the aproximate ages of 4, 10, 12, 14, 17, and other young and middle aged adults.

Phelps - 2

Their message is that God hates homosexuals(see pictures) and that God doesn't forgive. Of course, they may be onto something there. Jesus was sent as the saviour, so going past their rhetoric, they've messed up their own message. They came to Greensboro to call Billy Graham a lying whore.

A group of Soldiers and Marines also showed up to stand across the street and give them the death stare. That thumbs up in this picture isn't for them!

Phelps - 3

They generally think that they are the chosen ones and that they will go to heaven for living the life they live, which isn't exactly 'Love thy Neighbor'.

Wiki-Pedia has an interesting article on Fred Phelps and how this group of fanatic protestors came into existence. They also have several websites spreading their hate, one of which is titled

Thursday, June 08, 2006

American Idol:
Kellie Pickler on Jay Leno
Her Biggest Fans

I saw Kellie Pickler on Jay Leno Wednesday night. It was funny! Hillarious as a matter of fact. (Don't leave to try to find it online...I'll send you there in a second...) Her appearance on Leno's show from the MTV Awards red carpet got me thinking about the bubbly blonde who has the stars gawking over her.

Before she was a finalist on American Idol, before she came to be adored by millions of people nationwide, before she generated 810,000 hits by Googling her name, before she came to Greensboro and posed for Stewart "Lenslinger" Pittman's cell phone snapshot, and before she had appeared twice on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she was just a small town southern belle with a thick, small town, deep south, North Carolina drawl.

Before all the hoopla that has risen her quickly to the status of southern superstar she was just another beauty pageant winner named as Ms Stanley County.

She was also a roller skate waitress at an Albemarle restaurant with name that rhymes with Tonic.

While in school she was trying to set new and exciting fashion trends for the prom.

As seen on

But now she's got the likes of Justin Timberlake, Sandra Bullock, Will Ferrell and Keanu reeves gawking over her.

The stars want her to make it big....They're her biggest fans!

Check out the video of Kellie on Jay Leno.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Look Up and Live
(and this is on the set!)

It's a statement usually reserved for field crews operating a microwave van with a 50plus foot mast: Look up and live!

But the following video might cause our highly-compensated newsreaders in the studio to start craning their necks at the lights attached to the grid overhead.

The female anchor is reading the script when a light falls from above striking her in the head.

However, I don't know if I buy it. I could be wrong but in slow motion it looks like she begins the fall a fraction before the light hits her noggin. (If you can prove otherwise please feel free to comment.) And since all TV Lights are double secured when hung it's just not something that happens.

Still funny to watch....

Watch it below by pushing play...

As seen on

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Flying Circles
Being a Vulture is Just Part of the Job

Cell Phone StalkerI had 2 very interesting comments in response to my Blog Post titled "Cell Phone Stalking: Court House Style". The first one was from the lady I mentioned in the blog who laid on the horn to "mess up" our video. The second comment is anonymous but along the same train of thought. Both comments basically call the news business to the carpet for doing our jobs while defending 2 jailers who were just "doing their jobs" when an inmate was killed.

Due to the nature of the comments I feel like a point by point response is in order...

At 9:54
PM, May 20, 2006
, Anonymous said...
It seems to me that, from a news standpoint, you might realize that there are TWO sides to every story.

And as with every criminal case we cover, we have and continue to extend an open invitation to both defendants in this case to go on the record about the charges and allegations against them. A defendant choosing not to talk does not mean, however, that the media won't continue to pursue the story and print or broadcast all the information that we can gather.

The media has done all it can to hype up the sympathy for this ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT who died while in a struggle with law enforcement officers in jail. Why was he in jail? Let me list just a few of the charges...DRUNK DRIVING, hit-and-run, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest...And while he was in jail, he became agitated & violent, threatening others with a broken-off mop handle...he had to be placed in restraints because he got so out of hand!!

First, no one has said that the victim was illegal. Personally I think that's irrelevant. Yes he was in taken to the jail to be tested for DUI, though he was not held for that charge because he only blew a .07...NOT DRUNK. He was charged for taking the car of a co-worker without permission, and yes he had a fender bender and left the scene. Hardly a hardened criminal. His friends and family could have picked him up that very night on a very low bond, but wanted him to think about it in jail for a day or so. I don't remember anything about resisting arrest in the Thomasville Police Arrest Report that I read.

and while he was in jail, he became agitated & violent, threatening others with a broken-off mop handle...he had to be placed in restraints because he got so out of hand!!

I don't know what happened in the jail to make him mad, but I do know that enough time had passed that he wasn't under the influence of that .07 any longer.

How can you news people not see that maybe - just maybe - this is
simply a case of self-defense on behalf of the officers? The inmate had to
be shot with a taser gun and he STILL would not settle down and act like he
had some sense. Language barrier or not, anyone can tell what is trying to
be communicated in this type of situation. The officers were trying to
take away a WEAPON that the prisoner was using to provoke others in the

I don't know what kind of inside information you have but you just stated that they put him into restraints and then they were tasing him.(maybe you wrote it out of order) Maybe it was self defense. Maybe the officers were justified in shooting him with the taser gun numerous times all over the body and causing him to die due to a blunt trauma to the head. That's still to be seen. I do know that the DA says there is enough evidence to warrant charging the two jailers.
But the media only wants to show the public the most sensational and attention-grabbing side of the story about this "poor imigrant" who was in this country to support his family back home. BIG DEAL!!! You people disgust me with your hot-shot stories and you make no attempt what-so-ever to gather all of the information to present a thorough report.

No, like I said before, there is an open invitation for the two defendants in this case to talk to us on the record. We've contacted the lawyers of both defendants and they know that the invite to talk stands. The family of the victim stepped forward and had their say. There is no reason the defendants shouldn't have that chance too. That's not up to me, that's up to them.

Leave those two officers alone! They were doing their jobs, and you vultures
just want to shove a camera in their faces & put them on public display as if they are the criminals. They're not!!

They are defendants in a high profile killing in a taxpayer funded detention facility. The public deserves to know what happened, and what's going to happen. Yes, we do our best to get video of the people involved in the stories we cover. If those people choose to run from us we will chase them down. When we catch them we will still ask them if they have anything to say. No they are not criminals. That's not for me to decide, that's for the jury.

And by the way, I am the "other lady" who laid on the horn when you were
hounding Officer Huie...I should have tried to run one of you idiots over
instead. How's THAT for a news story?!?

That'd be a great story...sounds like assault and battery to me. Wouldn't be the first time.

And then the second comment....

At 2:00
PM, June 03, 2006
, Anonymous said...
I have to say that I agree with the above statement. At this point now, I'm sure you've decided not to continue reading the following statements because they don't agree with yours. I'm curious to know, while you're busy staking out the courthouse, are you getting paid?

Absolutely. Why would I do that for free?

I ask because I wonder if you've ever worked a job/career where
you are expected to put your life on the line everyday! Inmates are in
prison/jail for a reason, they broke the law! While I don't disagree that
sometimes things happen and innocent people end up in jail by mistake, those
people generally don't threaten those around them. Especially, those who are
essentially their "care takers" while in jail.

My father was a police officer. One day while in a foot chase he was knocked to the ground by the guy he was chasing landing across a hard concrete corner with his lower back. He severely injured his lower back and it was 20 agonizing years before the right surgery came along to really do anything about it. Being a cop in the 60s there were no great benefits to let him rest on his laurels for the rest of eternity.

As for me, I wouldn't say I put my life on the line everyday for my job, save for the last statement in the first comment above. I wouldn't have a problem going to Iraq to document the war. You may have heard that a cameraman was killed there last week in a roadside bomb attack. There are elements of dangers in my job here stateside too. We camp out on the side of the road on an almost daily basis. We go into strange, lower class, crime ridden neighborhoods everyday. We drive on the highways and street everyday.(Statistically higher chance of dying than from flying!) But I agree that LEOs including jailers have an extremely difficult job dealing with the worst elements of society on a daily basis. But as one of my reporter friends likes to say..."We're kind of like cops...we go where they go and deal with the same people they deal with...we just carry cameras instead of guns."

The media has gone crazy lately. I don't believe 95% of the stuff reported
in the papers or on the news anymore. While doctors and nurses, etc are held by
a code of ethics, it doesn't seem that reporters have any type of ethics,
responsibility, honesty, decency, etc. They gather a few tidbits of info that
may or maynot be true, twist it and turn it until it's absolutely no resemblence
of what it started to be just to beat the competition in "getting the story out

Unlike the codes of conduct and ethics established for doctors, lawyers, etc..., you can't legislate free speech. There are libel and slander laws that cover issues involving out and out incorrect reporting against individuals.

And as with any profession there are bad apples, those who don't follow protocol and cause bad things to happen. In your example you see stories on TV and in the papers that seem to be based on falsities and bad reporting. In this story a man is dead! Two jailers beat him to death! Whether or not they are found guilty as charged will be determined by a plea or a jury.

Personally I am very big on getting the story right the first time. I check and double check the facts of every story I work on. I do my best to gather information from more than one source even double checking official sources like the DA or LEO reports.

I also don't discriminate....I have also written stories about members of the media who have had their run ins with the law.

I follow the ethics guidelines of the National Press Photographer's Association. There are several trade associations that others journalist use as their guidelines, most overlapping and having similar codes of ethics.

We already have a shortage in alot of significant professions, such as
nursing. Law enforcement is not much better. I think I will see the day in my
time when we have such a shortage, no where will be safe to live. No one will
want to be in law enforcement, etc because everybody is "sue happy" these days.
Why not? People are too lazy to work and are looking for the easy buck!

Anything an employee does as a part of his or her job in any job, especially a public job, is generally the civil responsibility of the employer. Even in this case, the civil responsibility may soley lie with the Sheriff's Department. This is the point where good and ongoing training in the particular job field come in handy.

What better way than to turn self defense into murder. Not only does your
family get an express pass to be here legally, but they also don't have to worry
about lawyer expenses because the taxpayers that live here legally and are law
abiding citizens will take care of that bill, not to mention whatever comes from
all of the civil suits the family's ambulance chasing lawyer choses to file!

The murder charge is up to the DA and is completely separate and apart from the civil side of the case. But you are right...If you remember the case of OJ Simpson a few years back...He wasn't found guilty but is paying a hefty amount to the family. But that's just the difference in criminal and civil law. The civil court will be left to decide that part of the case and just who's resposbile for the damages that may be incurred.

(BTW - The victim in this case was also a taxpayer with a legitimate job with taxes being withheld.)

What the heck, maybe I'll take off to another country and live. Oh, yeah,
other countries don't allow illegal immigrants to have more civil rights than
their own citizens!! Only in America right! The Land of Opportunity!!

Exactly. And other countries don't even allow their own citizens to have the freedoms that we have here in the great ol' USA. The freedom to express ourselves. The freedom to think independently. The freedom to have a jury of our peers decide our fate. In some countries those jailers would have already been executed.