Saturday, March 21, 2020

WHAT I WONDERED WHILE SITTING IN MY NEWS CAR THIS WEEK...

1. Where the hell am I gonna pee?

2. How much Lysol does it to take to kill that gelatinous mass on my dashboard?

3. What part of social distancing does my reporter NOT understand? All he wants to do is sit in my passenger seat and chew his food ten times louder than every other human on the planet.

4. How many sporks can I hoard before authorities get involved?

5. With producers and editors working from home all week, how long before TV stations bulldoze their newsroom and replace them with more anchor lady dressing rooms?

6. Now that I’m no longer allowed in the building, would it be okay to set up shop in that abandoned Cheesecake Factory?

7. Can the old hippie with THE END IS NEAR sign just do a Skype Interview? Surely, he’s got a cellphone in that macrame fanny pack.

8. Does the ‘work from home’ mandate apply to photogs? Gotta say, not a lot of news goes down in my den.

9. Is this IT? Thirty years of learning to pull nuance from noise only to be excommunicated to the parking lot? Three decades spent sticking a lens into some felon’s face only to be struck down by some invisible germ? Umpteen hurricanes under my belt only to be force-fed granola bars in perfectly good weather?

10. Where the Hell AM I gonna pee?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Hi there!

It’s me, your local TV News ├žameraman - a small but very important part of "The Media". You know, that constitutionally protected entity so many of you were blaming for stirring up panic over that latest hoax: the Coronavirus. What was that, last weekend? Now it seems even our President is buying into the hoax, er, virus. Crazy, huh? It’s almost as if a global pandemic was closing in on every corner of our country. You’d think that kind of thing would have made the papers…

 Anyhoo, hope you’re taking the proper precautions to keep your family as as safe as possible. All those suits at the podium say the smartest thing to do is to just stay home, maybe monitor a current events broadcast for helpful information. Me, I wouldn’t know. See, while you’re sheltering in place and cursing your least favorite news anchor, I’ll be crisscrossing the region, interviewing experts, FaceTiming victims, shooting video of hopefully empty streets. Crazy as it sounds, I’m no longer allowed in my own newsroom. Instead, I spend my days scrunched in a cramped company car, darting this way and that until I pull over and make my many deadlines through a cranky, overworked laptop.

I’ve covered a lot in my career. Hurricanes, homicides, forest fires, floods and almost everything in between. I’ve floated through a sea of dead cattle, backpedaled in front of guilty Senators and been to more murder scenes that I can possibly ever remember. But I’ve never seen anything like the Coronavirus. And before it’s over, I’ll see it up close. As much as my station tries to protect me, sticking my lens into other people’s business is kinda what I do. It’s what I’ve always done.

See, I believe it matters.

 I believe our nation’s forefathers understood the importance of an independent press so fervently they included it in the FIRST amendment to our Constitution. I believe that Democracy does indeed die in darkness, that no matter what plague envelops our land, our great citizens won’t suffer from too much exposure to the truth. Ahhh, the truth. Never before has it been so slippery, so slight, so subjective. One person’s birthright is another’s abomination, depending on which channel you happen to land on. Pity, that.

But you’re smart. You’ll figure it out. Chances are you’ll have time to mull it over as you huddle with your family and watch your broadcast of choice. Me, I’ll be out in the thickofit. There’s an old journalism saying “News doesn’t happen in the newsroom”. Neither does it go down in my den. No, to tell what may turn out to be the biggest story of anyone’s career, I’ll have to travel to places I really don’t wanna go. But that’s my job, dare I say, my calling. I’m cool with that and I really don’t care if you are. Just do me one favor: In the coming weeks, as information becomes vital, do take care and make sure you’re not getting any virus-survival tips from some enemy of the American people.

 That'd just be embarrassing.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Do me a favor...

This may sound strange coming from a guy with a TV camera permanently affixed to his shoulder, but do me a favor and TURN OFF THE NEWS. No, not the local stuff - the folks who work on that live in your community and, contrary to popular belief, often care about it. No, I’m talking about those other broadcasts, the ones that don’t even pretend to be neutral, the ones that wallow in boosterism, the ones that ruin family gatherings.

You know, Cable News.   

Now, before you label me a heretic (I’ll wait for all you haters out there to look that word up), hear me out: I’m talking ALL Cable News. CNN, FOX, MSNBC - whatever combination of capital letters makes you hate your fellow American. Turn. That. Shit. Off. You’ll be happier when you do, not to mention just as  informed about the world as you would be if you depended on some blown-dried anchor to assure you opinion is the only correct one.

I know quite a few blown-dried anchors. Some are dear friends. Some are nuttier than squirrel turds. When it comes to forming important opinions, you’d do just as well to consult that PTA President you know, or even that kooky neighbor who blows their grass clippings onto your driveway. 

Okay, now that our TV is off (remember, turn it back on for the LOCAL news. There’s a story coming up featuring a dog in a funny hat that you will NOT wanna miss), do me another favor. Get in your car, drive to a neighborhood nothing like yours, park it, get out and strike up a friendly conversation with someone who looks different than you. It’s okay, they’re not gonna rip your eye-lids off, no matter what your favorite pundit has told you. In fact, they may turn out to be the kind of person you really like, despite the fact that their hair, clothes or skin isn’t what you’d be comfortable wearing. If you’re not careful, you might even find yourself nodding in agreement over some universal truism. (It’s okay, I won’t tell your friends in whatever echo chamber you call home.) Of course, some of the things these strangers say will strongly contradict your world view, but that’s fine. In fact, I  have it on good authority that that’s supposed to be way our country works.

Then again, I’m old enough to remember when Republican and Democrat were opposite sides of an American coin, not two warring factions that couldn’t wait to roll a grenade into each other’s villages. How we got to where we are is something our robotic overlords, er, history books will one day have to decide. Me, I’m just worried about survival. Mine, my children and this nation that’s been so very good to all of us. This country, this sprawling, scary, schizophrenic country is all we Americans got and it deserves better than to be destroyed in the name of partisan politics. Say you wake up next November to find your side won. That neighbor with the grass clippings who’s sure YOU’RE the one who’s nuts will still be there. Or will you set his house on fire for thinking differently than you? Asking for a friend…

Thanks for reading this. I don’t expect it to change any minds. But it’s been on my mind lately, largely due to social media. What a wonder social media is. Several times a day, I glance at my phone and stare slack-jawed at what one of my ‘friends’ posted. ‘How can they believe THAT?’, I ask myself, but no one ever answers. All I can come up with is that they’ve surrounded themselves with only like-minded folk, that they subsist on a media diet consisting of nothing but the kind of lies and distortions that pleases their particular palate. 

As for me, I’m just a simple cameraman. For nearly three decades I’ve dropped in on every kind of person there was and somehow convinced them to be on television. It hasn’t made me any smarter than you, but it has widened my worldview and taught me that no one side is completely correct. If a guy who drives around with a tripod in his trunk can figure that out, surely the rest of you can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this piece about the dog in the funny hat ain’t gonna write itself.

Monday, April 01, 2019

What Charlotte News Crews Already Know


I’m not sure if you've noticed, but Charlotte is crawling with news crews. I know, for I count myself among them. The Queen City is a hard news market; chases, blazes and slayings dominate the day. It’s a meat grinder, all right, and if you're not careful, it'll slowly chew you up. So the next time you pass that camera crew on the corner, consider what those crusty souls behind the glass have been through and what they've learned along the way… 

They know all the places to go for that killer view of the city’s skyline, but they made me promise on my zoom lens not to tell you where there they are.

They know that strip of sidewalk outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse where a marked news unit can hop the curb and park. It’s a longstanding practice, but it still feels weird doing so with all those cop cars around.

They know Greg Olsen will always give them a decent soundbite in the Carolina Panthers locker room - after a big win, or following a soul-crushing loss -- because Greg Olsen is a standup dude.

They know what it's like to hover over the city in a helicopter as something beneath them burns; and they know how it feels to watch the same chopper fly toward that blackening plume, while they're stuck sit in traffic on I-77.

They know what tear gas smells like. Many last tasted it in 2016, when the Keith Scott protest turned deadly and Crown Town came undone. By the way, the footage you’ve watched of the madness that week exist solely because some loners with lenses chose not to run.

They know whether to race to the seventh level of the Daily Parking Deck or across the way to the Airport Overlook Lot, depending on what runway the troubled airplane is trying to land on.

They know how long it takes to get from the Spectrum Center's semi-secret Media Entrance all the way to center court. (Five to fifteen minutes, depending on your attitude, how much gear you have with you and the chattiness level of the metal detector lady.)

They know that if they work a Friday night shift, misfortune will be their plunder. They’ll end up somewhere along Beatties Ford or Sugar Creek or Albemarle roads. They know when the cop cars leave the scenes, they should, too.

They know that, for whatever reason, the sunrises at Charlotte Motor Speedway are nothing short of spectacular. Ask any morning crew that’s done a Speed Week preview there and packed up a little slower than usual. 

And they all know that in fifteen months or so, the Republican National Convention is going to slam into Charlotte and that they'll be there, riding the chaos that will surely come with it.

We just don't wanna taste any more tear gas. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

From Our Personnel Department...

 SIGHTED NOMAD WANTED

Must have firm grip, a pair of sniper's eyes and a knack for gadgets.  



Endless missions await. 

Will supply with aging weaponry, middling assistance and new demands daily. Must like ugly weather and attractive gasbags. Motoring skills mandatory. Penchant for pockets a plus. Will train. Won't coddle. Shoulders eroded. Spines maligned. Empty stares lengthened. Bad attitudes validated. Abuse a certainty. Respect sporadic. Worldview widened. Anecdotes amassed. Swagger magnified.

COME JOIN OUR TEAM!
(Applicants assume all risks.)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Oh, The Places You'll (be forced to) Go!


Congratulations! Today is your day! You're the photog on call! You’re off and away! There’s poo on the highway. And goo at the zoo. Stop by the station and grab a hair-do! Lex will be waiting. Or maybe take June. Just don’t go with Nigel. That dude’s a buffoon! 


The scanner just burped! It horkled and hacked! We’re gonna need you two to come back! Pick up a live truck! Head straight out of town! An unpleasant something has just fallen down! 

You can’t lag behind! But please do not speed! There’s no time for lunch! You’re now THE LEAD! Producers are juicing! A manager stammered! I’m pretty sure our sports guy is hammered! 

We know you’re not there yet! And busy as hell. But we need to know just HOW this thing fell? Did something else push it? Did it just take a dive? Was it feeling depressed? All out of jive? Let us know when you get there. WE'LL DO IT LIVE! 

You’ll round off the bottom. In a box off the top! We’ll come back after weather. And probably not stop! We’re still in the book. So try not to flop! Now put down that phone and know you’re the best. Whatever you do, wear that damn yellow vest! Tweet when you get there. We’ll flesh out the rest!

You’ll come to a place where the streets are not marked. We don’t really give a damn where you parked. Just get on that guardrail. The countdown’s begun. Fire up the camera. Set it on STUN. There’s no time to focus. You’re up on the bird. Stand by for grandeur… 

Let’s polish this turd!

A Little Less Conversation...


They may smell like a bucket of wet gym socks, but I've found most college mascots to be pretty reasonable creatures. Sure, they're misunderstood. But how can you not be when you're a spherical fruit with stubby blue arms?  Where can a tiger with cereal issues go, without someone yelling "You're G-r-r-r-e-e-a-t! And who can blame a horse-headed playboy for pickin' up digits on the road? I can't! Which is why I jumped at the chance to speak with a number of them at an industry function the other day. Well, actually I was the only one speaking. Mascots are pretty quiet. In fact, they don't talk at all! Don't know why, really. Anyhoo, sitting there, listening to the minutes of the meeting not be read, I got to thinking...

Ya know, mascots and photogs aren't all that different. Both species sweat profusely, both suffer from poor peripheral vision and both know how to whip the natives into a frenzy with just the roll of a shoulder. Maybe that's why I always identified with these taciturn assassins - even Shadow Satan over there. Normally, I try to avoid fallen angels, but I gotta say, for an agent of the underworld, he's good people. I just wish he'd share some sordid road stories with me, but all he ever did is stare. Then he pantomimed my execution, much to the pleasure of the cleaning crew. Once I even asked a cheerleader WHY these creatures are so quiet all the time. She only shrugged and said the mascots didn't like to talk about it. 

I guess I should have seen that coming.