Thursday, February 17, 2005

Press Conference Zombies

It’s the middle of the February Sweeps Period and boy, does it feel like it. From special reports to breaking news to endless live shots, the already grueling news cycle always reaches a fever pitch this time of year. It’s enough to make this self-avowed soft-news-junkie barricade himself in an edit suite and slice and dice timelines until his eyeballs bleed. But alas, the call of the wild beckons, and I’m soon hurled into the void by a frazzled assignment editor, or at least one who pretends to be frazzled until I’m safely out of sight. Either way, once I’m jettisoned from my edit cocoon, things usually turn far more pedestrian.

Like today for instance, when I covered my 47,361st press conference. Today’s focus? The shutdown of the Southern Loop - a new stretch of 1-40 that area motorists were just getting used to. But as my pal Tom Britt says, the D.O.T. giveth and the D.O.T. taketh away. So as I settled into my tripod position at the back of a crowded conference room, I daydreamed while the Transportation Wonks defended their decision to send thousands of travelers back through the dreaded corridors of I-40‘s ‘Death Valley’. Wonder if ‘Survivor’ will be any good this year?

Anyhoo, since the only thing worse for you than watching reality television is thinking too much about it, I turned back to the matter at hand. The head hardhat yammered on about traffic patterns and peak times, but I just couldn’t connect. As I absently-minded watched the audio needles dance in my viewfinder, I re-examined a mental blueprint of the edit sequence I’d been forced to abandon. Ya know, if I switched those two wide shots and slo-mo’d theose cutaways, I could probably stretch that footage to the closing soundbite. Sound like gibberish? Perhaps, but these are the things that run through the mind of the average photog while he tweaks the focus. Jeez - how long can this cat talk?

Apparently a long time, for he was still babbling when I whipped out my digital camera and popped off a few frames of my cross-town colleagues. This shot features two fellows I see all the time. Their names escape me at the moment, which is wholly inexcusable since I’ve shared more knowing glances with them than some members of my extended family. Be it a train wreck, an operating room or a hostage situation, we’ve hovered on the edges of more surreal landscapes than I could possibly ever cover here. Whatsmore, we share a common language based on a most uncommon vantage point - that of the lowly TV news photog. Yes, with nary a word exchanged between us, I can tell you these two seasoned lensmen are just as monumentally bored as I am, no matter how intently they may be leaning into those viewfinders.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a soft news coma to crawl back into.

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