Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Scenes from a News Week

Hey, have you ever thread 300 feet of cable, dragged camera, lights and wrestled a tripod through the back door of a Target store - only to set up a crude television studio in the Back-To-School section in under twelve minutes? I have. Some would call such an exercise in controlled frenzy a crash course in guerilla broadcasting. I called it Wednesday. Then again, that's the life of a TV news photog: a labored footchase through the halls of mediocrity. If that strikes you as a tad sullen, so be it. Spend enough time lurking by the discount bin with a camera on your shoulder and you'll start whining too.

But I ain't here to whine. Rather, I'm here to expose, expound upon and hopefully shed some light what I know to be a very twisted craft. TV News is far from the glossy depictions you see in the cinema, especially on the local level. Whereas network correspondents may circle the globe in private jets, your neighborhood newsgatherer can be found pulling late-day u-turns in department store parking lots. Scenes of schlubs like me gettin' their McGyver on rarely make it to the Multiplex, but they are the very underpinning of your nightly newscast. If the construction seems a little shoddy, get in line with everyone else and blame the photog. I won't mind.

So why is my skin so thick all of a sudden, you ask? Simple, I'm a photog. Like my friend Chris Petersen here, I thrive on unplanned events, unlimited access and overused electronics. When we're not shooting the breeze at the college dorm groundbreaking, we're trading jabs at the meth lab takedown, swapping lies at the fatal fire. After a while alot od us stop paying any real attention to the subject matter at hand - even as we traipse around to capture it from every angle. I don't know about Chris here, but I can cover an Easter Egg Hunt or a school bus wreck with about the same amount of emotion on tap. It's not the kind of thing you list on your business card, but it's the jaded hallmark of any seasoned shooter.

Speaking of seasoned shooters, there's Bill Welch. Unlike many photogs half his age, Bill's kept a modicum of dignity about himself all these many years. In fact he's been showing newsbies like myself how it's done for more than three decades. That's a-l-o-t of news passed through the tube. I shudder to think I'll sling a lens for that long, but if I do - I'll count myself lucky to be as detached yet still humane as Mr. Bill here. Only problem is, there are no guarantees - as the elder Welch will surely attest. Just last week he found out he's soon to be unemployed; one of the many hard-working victims of the WXLV/WUPN newsroom shutdown.

I've no doubt Bill will soon find another outlet to point and shoot for, but the unforseen changes at the tail-end of his career do fill me with dread. This business of camera-portage is if anything a young man's game. At twenty three years of age, there was nothing I wanted to do more than live through the lens. Now, 18 months shy of my fortieth birthday, the luster has more than worn off. Which is partly why I've spent the last ten months blogging, even when like tonight, I had no real great themes to explore. Push button publishing won't rescue me from a dead-end career, but it's a start in a better direction. Guess it's time to get serious about that series of best selling novels I've been putting off for so long. It's the enchanting tale of boy wizard, you see...

1 comment:

Chewie said...

I have performed the Swan Lake routine with cable, camera, lights, and tripod -- but not in a Target, and not in 12 minutes. You're right -- it's a young (wo)man's game.

And you're right about Bill Welch. Where will those guys land? A lot of talented people with invaluable experience are being squeezed out of work - I hope it's not because the citizenry would rather get their news from some frat boy's vblog - but some days it seems that way.

I do look forward to your novels, though.

And I think the pic of the multi strip on the Crayolas is one of the most beautiful images of 2005.