Amid my own ancillary newsgathering, I watched as much Katrina coverage as I could stand. As usual, my colleagues didn’t disappoint, forging new ground in televised stupidity as they perfected the art of the human windsock. I should know; twelve years ago I was the poster boy for questionable storm-tracking tactics. I’ve covered many a hurricane since then and would probably be manning a French Quarters balcony this time given the chance. Instead, I’m digging deep in my salt-encrusted camera cases for the following pointers. I give you...
Lenslinger’s Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Hurricane Remotes.
1. Stop Acting Surprised
If you’re standing in the middle of a hurricane with a wireless microphone in your hand, chances are you clawed three co-worker’s eyes out for the assignment, drove hundreds of miles and put a great deal of thought into your matching rain gear. So for the love of my remote control, stop pretending your shocked that the weather is suddenly shitty.
2. Lose the Wind Speed Thingie
Look I know it seemed like a good idea back at the sporting goods store, but those infernal contraptions are notoriously unreliable. I once had one that worked fine until it got wet. Do us all a favor next time and leave it in the prickliest, right beside the giant thermometer you used last month in that hot car story. You know the one.
3. Introduce Me to Your Friends
Hey, you’re pretty and all strapped to the pole like that, but we all know you’re not out there alone. Put that wireless microphone to use and interview the crew. Quiz the photog about sleep deprivation, ask the grumpy dude in the truck how many granola bars and cigarettes he‘s consumed in the past hour, quiz the field producer on her college days. Anything’s better than hearing you recite the obvious while dodging coconuts.
4. Stop Yelling!
I know, I know - it’s rained sideways up your ear canal for the better part of the morning, but my bear in mind, that heavily-logo’d microphone you’re eating is a highly sensitive directional instrument quite capable of recording your mastery of the obvious at most any decibel. If nothing else, do it for the sound guy back at the studio, who’s no doubt ripping his headphones off and spilling coffee as you screech about how your handheld wind thingie has stopped working.
5. Work on the Wardrobe
I’m guessing the promotions department made you wear that aqua green rain slicker with the oversized logos, but I gotta tell ya, it just ain’t working’. How about an outfit that better represents the average tourist - say a pair of Birkenstocks, bright orange Speedo’s and a too-tight Nascar t-shirt. For the ladies, maybe a confederate flag bikini and cigarette holder? I saw a pregnant lady wearing thisvery outfit at a water park recently and it was most entertaining. Until her boyfriend noticed me, that is.
6. Lose the Cliché’s
I know its tough to come up with original patter when your dodging trash can lids, but using the terms ’steady clip’, ’not fit for man nor beast’ or any catchy spin-off of the storm’s name (Katrina and the Waves, anyone?) won’t win you any friends with the better-versed viewers out there. After all, you don’t want to SOUND foolish while lashing yourself to a chain-link fence and urging others to evacuate, do you? Wait, don’t answer that.
7. Try not to Look TOO Smug
Hey, I realize you want to be there, but Sally Joe Housecoat thinks your risking your life for her! So wipe that silly grin off your face, spit out a few facts and at least pretend your up to your knees in toxic waste for the betterment of your viewers, and not just so you can have something flashy for the opening montage on your next escape tape. We know better though, don’t we?
8. Compare and Contrast.
Unless you’re REALLY charming, countless live shots of you leaning into the wind quickly grow monotonous. Why not fight your way across the courtyard and into the hotel lobby, have a few buddies pry open the door and show us how safety is just a slow-motion steps away. If the power’s off, use your cameraman’s top-light top make wacky hand shadows on the badly-ravaged Continental Breakfast Bar. Just don’t disturb any card games. Those Weather Channel people get real pissy when you interrupt their gambling - especially that Cantore dude.
9. Get an Act
Much of what’s wrong with the modern day hurricane live shot isn’t in the inherent danger in the location but in the lethal addition of hackneyed and banal banter. Instead of repeating fragmented weather terms in a breathless yelp, try something different: a little soft-shoe perhaps, or a long pointless story from your youth, maybe a show-tune or two…Anything that will separate you from the pack. Personally, I always begin my sound checks with a heartfelt recitation of ’Texas Radio and the Big Beat’, but that’s just me.
10. Look Out!
You there - with the microphone and false sense of entitlement: you’re not immortal, ya know. Those flying shards of razor sharp sheet-metal could easily cleave you and you designer rain-slicker in half, POW! - right between the logos! So do us all a favor and keep you eyes open for incoming projectiles. If you’re truly destined to be the first hurricane reporter to buy the farm on camera, at least you’ll have time to say something pithy before your unwise demise is burned into a nation’s collective consciousness. Won’t your J-School Professor be proud?