Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tomorrow Doesn't Exist

Here's a tip. If a local TV news reporter calls you to set up an interview, chances are he wants to come over RIGHT NOW. Why so soon? Because news crews don't get their story assignments until around mid-morning on the day they're due. Ideas that begin as three word descriptions on a dry erase board at 9 am regularly air that afternoon as heavily-edited ninety second epics of sight, narration an sound. This quick turnaround is a surprise to much of the general public, though I'm sure most of them have watched TV news sometime in their past. Of course the 'day-of turn' model limits the storytelling possibilities somewhat; it's pretty impossible to replicate what your boss saw on Dateline last night when given only a few hours to do so. Still, my colleagues and I pride ourselves on delivering as sophisticated a vista as possible, given the sometimes unthinkable pace of our production.

All of which makes my class of newsgatherer a rather fractic cat. Continually on the move, we race about in our logo'd chariots at breakneck pace, parking where we shouldn't and often barging in at the last moment, lights-n-lens a blazin'. It's not that we're rude, we're just accustomed to people making way for the almighty press, for it's the rare citizen that will not promptly stop and drop when the big shiny Tee-Vee cameras wanna come over. Something about the thought of invading the region's collective living room 'round dinnertime makes both politician and punk-ass rethink their schedule. Whatever that says about society could be the subject of another post; I'm just documenting what went through my head yesterday when a certain electronics store manager brought a halt to my day before it ever started.

It was one o clock, five full hours before was slotted to air. But having yet to pull the trigger, my reporter and I rolled into the big-box gadget store ready to turn a quick story on iPod security. So you can imagine our surprise when the nice-enough lady behind the counter hit us with the ever dreaded:

"Oh - you're here. I thought you were gonna call. We can't do it today. How 'bout tomorrow?"

After recoiling from the hit, my reporter leaned in firm but polite, reminding the manager she had called several times to confirm the appointment. An slightly annoyed sales assistant piped up from behind a cash register to verify she'd taken our messages. What followed was a tempered debate in the politics of phone tag, whereupon I scanned the laptop aisle while the ladies hashed it out. All remained calm but the store manager didn't seem to understand that the story we had yet to shoot was already being promoted on-air and that we would make it happen with or without her. The manager, whose problem this was not, smiled and shook her head slowly as she repeatedly suggested we just do the whole thing tomorrow.

'Tomorrow doesn't exist' I thought as we gathered our gear and skulked toward the door. In the 24 hour news cycle, what happens the following day couldn't be more irrelevant. The manager, however, moved at the speed of retail; the plight of the local news crew that had banked on her midday commitment was equally unimportant in her overly-lit flourescent world. For what it's worth we found a sister store twelve miles away that was happy to have us. All the countertop kerfluffle really did was rob me of about forty five minutes in the edit suite, time that's priceless to a broadcast burnout like myself.

Speaking of time, I'm out if it. -- Seeya!


Darkmoon said...

Thus... someone needs to get their butt in gear and start scheduling stories ahead of time. I thought that's what magazine and other publications do? So if so, why can't TV? Sure there are "up-to-minute" assignments like an apartment building burning, or a cat had sixteen kittens or something, but I don't see why there couldn't be more "60 Minute" type assignments.

I mean if you really get down to it, there are a bunch of issues within this city that could use some good knee-deep research.

Heck, on the state level, I'd love to know why a lot of state construction work is going to the company that just happens to be owned by Governor Easley. Happens that it's in the Wilmington area too, and there's not really the population to justify the "expansion of roads".

Local level (beating an old horse), I want to know when we have rainy days if there are more accidents due to zero visibility of road lines. And there's a bunch else that could go on and on.

Colonel Corn's Camera said...

You should have snapped a picture of her and told her, "one way or another your going to be written about today!"

Weaver said...

What....You didn't even get any consideration for the purchase of a high dollar HD Set? Isn't that where you were???? Hmmmm....

Chris Morton said...

You wanted my MySpace addy... here it is.

sek said...

It always amazes me that people can so easiy decline what amounts to free advertising! Pull your head outa your a**es people!!

JerGo said...

This, "we can do it tomorrow/next week" thing must be pushing east. I had the same thing happen to me today.

Cara Michele said...

This makes me feel better. I didn't get the press release for a recent event sent out until the day of the event, less than 12 hours before it started. Some details weren't settled in time to do it earlier, but I felt really bad about it and afraid we'd get no media. But guess what? Everybody showed up! Now I know why. You guys are working on the same schedule!! (Oh, and PS, I think I met you that same night at the MeetUp... You're the gifted one!)