When I didn't immediately comment on the recent Today Show live-shot gaffe, I figured I'd missed my chance - but Michelle Kozinski's ankle-deep canoe ride is still sending ripples through Cyberspace, thanks to a snarky populace and of course, Al Gore. If you didn't see the clip, it's okay - this frame-grab says it all: a husky-voiced, expertly-coiffed reporterette joins us live from the driver's seat of a canoe, delivering her breathy report while idly paddling through flood-ravaged New Jersey. All is going well for a few seconds, until two schmoes in hipwaders walk through the shot, totally blowing the illusion of a correspondent at sea. After the shot, Matt and Katie lambasted Kozinski on-air, making a dumb situation worse by chortling smugly from their overstuffed anchor chairs. Stay Classy, Phoenix!
It's nothing new, really. The network morning shows have been producing stunt live shots and over-produced set-pieces ever since Willard Scott strapped on his first lapel mike - you know, the one that looked like a lava lamp on a chainlink necklace. With technology ever shrinking and the Morning Wars forging new ground in self-flaggelation, expect more of what we're already seeing. Consider Katie Couric's latest interview with 35 year old Dakota Fanning, a dual-camera orgy on horseback that's already drawing delightful flack amongst the punditry.
At the local level, we're offer a far less sophisticated broadcast product than the cutting-bending production values emanating from Rockefeller Plaza. Aside from a little feathery backlight on interview subjects and reporter's shoulders, I try and stay invisible. I fail as a documentarian when you start noticing lighting, pacing and camera placement. Besides, if I wanted to play with C-Stands and duct tape all day, I'd have wormed my way into the local filmmaker's scene, instead of spendig my twenties chain-smoking outside small-market newsrooms. Oh well ,one man's photog vest is another dude's black turtleneck weater. But I digress, what I'm trying to say is this: Morning shows have always surfed the murky waters between news and infotainment. Whenever they paddle into the further reaches of either cove, they risk scraping their knuckles on the jagged reefs of their eroded credibility.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a two-camera live shot to prepare for. See, the hot air balloons lift at dawn...we'll put a reporter in one basket and have you, your camera and a two-gig transmitter in another one. Now, you can't exactly control a hot-air balloon's flighpath, so what we thought we'd have you do is...