Sunday, December 19, 2004

Anarchy at Center Court

With less than a week until Christmas and four more days of work left, I’m sure to get it: The much-maligned Holiday Shopping Story. It’s an assignment most TV News folk dread - the ones of us who leave the studio, anyway.

It’s not that it’s difficult, mind you. Spend an hour or so on-scene and you’ll fill your viewfinder with more Christmas consumer images than you can record. Still, the lens-toting loner has good reason to gripe as he schleps gear through the sliding double doors.

For starters, it’s almost impossible to fly under the radar. As a pretty low key guy, I love nothing more than hiding behind the lens. I’m quite adept at being the nameless face behind the flashy station logo. But that sort of invisibility is impossible on the selling floor...especially this time of year.

You try blending into a sea of hopped-up holiday shoppers with a Channel X news camera on your shoulder. It can’t be done. For every sensible citizen that averts your gaze and keeps on walking, a dozen loitering yahoos strut and preen for your attention. Pop on your light and you'LL turn the Food Court into a mosh pit. It’s enough to make a WEARY photog run for the live truck.

Ah, the live truck: another curse of continuous holiday coverage. Producers love to park reporters at the mall to intro their piece, but that twenty seconds of television can break your back and your pride. Why? Try dragging five hundred feet of dirty camera cable into a herd of frazzled consumers and setting up a live remote in their midst. There’s not enough duct tape in the world to make that a good idea.

But we do it, year after year and I don’t expect it to change this joyous season. The only upside is all the shopping I do between wide shots and soundbites. One year I completed my entire list with the heavy strap of my camera digging into my shoulder. ‘Make a hole - the cameraman wants to buy a Lean Mean Grillin’ Machine for his in-laws.’

Yes, the holiday shopping live shot is here to stay, despite its utter lack of news value. I‘ve yet to hear of even one Billy Joe Six-pack bolting up from his La-Z-Boy and bellowing to his bride in the kitchen.

“Myrna - come quick! The Tee-Vee sez there’s people swarmin’ the shopping mall in time fer Christmas! Quick! Git in the storm cellar!”

Who knows though? Maybe that has happened. How would I know, anyway? I’m stuck here in line waiting for Santa and dodging rent-a-cops. The whole world could explode and I’d barely hear a rumble beneath the sappy Muzak. Hmm...maybe it’s not so bad.

Just do me favor, would ya? If you pass a TV news crew camped out in the middle of a packed shopping mall these days, be nice. They’re having as much as fun as the schlub collecting trays in the Food Court.

No, the only worse gig this time of year is the snowy overpass, after a few paltry flakes have sent news managers AND the public into a bread buying, car wrecking, TV watching tizzy.

On second thought, forget I even mentioned that.


David Wharton said...

Hang in there. It makes folks at home feel good to watch the suffering of others at the mall. I'm just sorry you have to suffer too . . . but if you're lucky, you'll run into an Elvis impersonator like I did. Wouldn't *that* bit of video be worth the pain?

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