Between the half dozen reporter-voiced ’packages’ in your average newscast is a plethora of what we in the biz know as Vo-Sots. Allow me to elaborate. VO stands for Video, in this case 40 seconds or so of highly edited footage designed to run ‘under’ an anchor’s off-camera voice. This is followed by a Sot, or Sound On Tape, better known as a sound-bite. You know, those talking heads you see being interviewed on the evening news; the parade of grimacing faces that appear on the magic box in the corner of your living room right around dinnertime. TV News, it‘s called. Perhaps you’ve heard about it.
If not, congratulate yourself. Otherwise, stop pretending like you don’t know what a VoSot is, because it’s definitely gonna be on the test. Not just the structural breakdown of said line-up item, but the actual procurement of said species, for this is where the real learning begins. I have discovered more cosmic truths about the planet on the seemingly endless itinerary of this pointless pursuit than from any college syllabus. Then again, I never got very far past the syllabus, choosing instead to frequent the parking lot the for the very finest in whatever illicit bent was currently in season. It wasn’t long before I traded a half-hearted stab at academia form a job selling cars, a career I was so miserable at that I quickly abandoned it for the quixotic occupation of TV news-gatherer. That, my friend, is desperate.
Still, I took to the oddball crew of electronic town-criers like the aimless drifter I was. After I proved my mastery of the mid-seventies technology rusting in the studio, I shuffled through a few other in-house gigs, but always with my eye on the open road. Production vans were my first modes of transportation, but they only took to me to the used car lots and rich lady dress shops of the cheesy local commercial circuit. What I really yearned to pilot was a flashy news unit, lacquered to the gills with updated logos and bristling with the crackle of multiple scanner traffic. I’d watch the painted Blazers, low-rider station-wagons and newfangled SUV’s rumble out of the lot ever morning as I polished light bulbs in the back of my faded white Ford Aerostar. Oh to be a cowboy, I thought - dodging deadlines and tracking down news on the open road.
It all seemed very romantic back then, but from where I now sit - in the well-worn ass-groove of my umpteenth news unit, it feels quite pedestrian. Especially when I spend my days on VoSot Patrol - that time-honored tradition of assigning a lone photog several small news stories to gather throughout the day. Ribbon-Cuttings, Mug Shots, Dog-Shows and Drive-by’s - the flotsam and jetsam of daily drivel that warrants mention but not analysis (according to the twenty-something news producer that is, very often a nebbish type who’s been out of Momma’s kitchen three times now, thank you very much). No, after doubling back from town to town, I’ve begun chasing the trivial and the traumatic at about the same speed. Sure, I‘ll still goose the engine for breaking news, but don’t expect me to risk life and limb for the County Commissioner meeting. They’ll still be acting like third graders when I get there, don’t you worry.
So while I stare at the dust motes skittering across my office‘s dashboard, excuse me if I don’t crane my neck too hard at that fire truck that just sped through the intersection. Until I see a giant ape, burning orphanage or flying police car come across my windshield, I’m not about to get off schedule. After all, I got a group of school kids, a hopped-up principal and a cage full of ghetto-birds waiting on yours truly. It’s gonna take more than a toxic smoke plume twisting up from the horizon to keep me from my appointed rounds! Somewhere, back in the newsroom, there’s a metrosexual cracking open his third Diet Coke of the day and watching Judge Judy, who’s counting on me to fill 120 unrelated seconds of his show. One tap of my cell phone’s speed-dial feature and warm soda shoots out his nose and all over today‘s plaintiff. Don't make me do it!
Let the rookie chase the Bin Laden sighting on aisle five, I’M on VoSot Patrol…