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!