Monday, January 16, 2006

Reasons To Stay

I clicked on this thread hoping to find reasons to stay in TV, for it’s an issue I’ve been struggling with lately. First though, some background:

I never planned to work in TV news ... never studied, never interned, never petitioned my local anchor for a fifty cent tour. Instead, I wandered into a tiny CBS affiliate on a dare and quickly fell in love with the lights, the cameras and the kooky characters that roamed those rundown halls. Before anyone could stop me, I wormed my way behind an unmanned fancy-cam and proclaimed myself a certified pho-TOG. Suddenly I found myself ferrying reporters across town in my very own logo-mobile, pushing past mere mortals for an up-close look at the latest sensation, atrocity or fender-bender. A deep kick indeed! Unconcerned with the lowly pay and long hours, I became rapidly addicted to the access my oversized lens afforded me. By my late twenties, I rightfully considered myself the weathered veteran of a thousand-plus newscasts, one who was all too aware that most of what I knew about the world came from looking at it through a tube. Like most young men, I equated who I was with what I did. And what I knew myself to be was a lenslinger, though it would be a few more years before I started using that word in public.

But that was long ago. These days, everything that is wrong with local TV news (and there is a LOT wrong) has pretty much eclipsed the moon-faced joy I used to feel while assembling all those ninety second video vignettes. Justified or not - rookie reporters, endless live shots and the mindless repetition of a million newscasts have turned this once eager scanner-hound into a volatile burnout prone to cubicle outbursts and news unit swearing matches. An all too predictable transformation perhaps, but it ain’t the guy I’d hoped to become when I first took up the glass all those years ago. Whereas I was once the youngest guy in the newsroom, I am at 38, something of an old-timer, a grizzled used-to-be who can deconstruct a damaged industry but still can’t quite figure out his place in it. So, literary aspirations aside, I began to look around for other ways to spend my workdays.

Trouble is, few lines of work compare to chasing news. I don’t want to fix stereos, sell real estate, deliver packages or any other skull-numbing gig out there. Why should I - when I’ve spent the better part of the last sixteen years focusing on something different every shift? As much as I detest the window-dressing and hollow glitz of local TV news, there is absolutely no more satisfying feeling than rolling up on a breaking news and kicking glass, or silently stalking citizens as they allow me (and a million viewers) a peek into their lives, or turning a small, seemingly unimportant event into water-cooler chat for the region’s masses. Recently, I had an opportunity of the cyber-variety, a chance to put down the camera and pick up the pixel. At first the idea excited me, until an interior voice I’ve learned to listen to began asking questions I’d yet to answer. Did I really want to hand over my Sony, move out of my beloved my news unit and pass up the chance to clamor at turmoil’s edge - all so I could ride a desk, take longer lunches and baby-sit a website? Hell no. I may as well turn in the keys to my storyteller’s soul.

Thus, it is with an inward grin and a hint of resignation that I once again admit a long-known fact. I’m a hopeless news geek. I’ve done this so long it’s engraved in my DNA. As much as I may bash my broadcast habit, so many other endeavors strike me as equally insipid, profoundly pointless, inherently empty. If that sounds overly negative, well, you got a point. But for me, this ingenuous outlook fits far better than a feigned disposition of optimism and light. Besides, I don’t intend to wallow in obscurity forever; instead I plan to become the Poet Laureate of the Photog Nation. A strange goal for sure, but it’s the only destiny I feel equipped to fulfill. For now however, I got a book to write. Lock up on your way out, would ya?


Weaver said...

Look at the list of TV Photog Bloggers and notice where your link is....It's on top of about 19 that I looked at...I think that makes you the 'Laureate of the Photog Nation' hands down.

You can be given credit for most of these guys starting blogs at all.

You are also linked on Lost Remote, you've been featured on News Blues, you are well respected at your're on the blogroll of countless national and international websites and everyone in the Greenboro Blogosphere knows Lenslinger.

When you Google Lenslinger it returns 78,000 links.

Like they say, if you build it, they will come....

Get that book written, with all those great stories you have...I think the rest will just fall into place.

Weaver said...

Googling 'Viewfinder Blues' comes back with 166,000 results.

Zippy said...

"Did I really want to hand over my Sony, move out of my beloved my news unit and pass up the chance to clamor at turmoil’s edge - all so I could ride a desk, take longer lunches and baby-sit a website?"

I did exactly that after eight years as a photog. I have yet to look back and regret the move. I don't miss the 3 a.m. calls to drive to the middle of nowhere for a fatal something or other. Instead, when that call comes, I fire up the laptop, write a story, and go back to bed. In exchange, I have something resembling a life again.

Is it for everyone? Probably not. But if you want to stay in news, while having more creative control than in the average newscast, I'd say look into it.

Lenslinger said...


Thanks, dude. Now, STOP CYBER-STALKING ME!!!


Wise advice indeed, and I appreciate the perspective. I find myself in a Catch-22: tired of, yet inspired by TV news. I'd much rather write about being a photog than actually do it these days. Should I trade in my camera, would my muse go with it? Most probably not, but I'm not quite ready to end my 'field research' just yet.

By the way, '3 a.m. calls to drive to the middle of nowhere for a fatal something' is the most apt description of slumber-interrupting spot news as I've ever heard. Rock on!

Jorge_Guapo said...

Good post, 'slinger. I have been having this same internal argument with myself a lot...especially lately. I'm afraid I'm not easily swayed back to my gig with a clear head and passion. Instead, I'm exploring my options. Meantime...I pound out vosots for the news beast. Feed the beast, or he will grow angry. Grrrr.
Now...where's that classified section?

turdpolisher said...

sounds like you've been roaming around inside my head, and my news unit.

this business started to suck years ago, but there's nothing eles that's this much fun.

after the hurricanes (that's how we measure time now in louisiana) i quit pouring myself into work, and started concentrating more on getting home on time.

it seems to work. i'm still an old burn-out. but i'm not a drag to work with anymore, and my work has actually improved.

waitin' on that book!

Fecund Stench said...

Man, I would kill for a comment from turdpolisher.

DM said...


Come to the beach and work in production with me.


Sticks said...

'Slinger', I'm entering my second century and am past my quarter century mark as a shooter. I couldn't agree with you more about the state of local news but man they're still paying me to make movies everyday, it's continues to be a pretty sweet vocation!

Anonymous said...

very nicely an ex network shooter(15 yrs)who traveled the world to now chasing squrrels up a tree(local news 8 yrs) here in chicago, i can't agree more with the natural transition from - a young cub out to change the world with my stories to the crotchity old turd whose 'seen it all' and then some...but im only 44 yrs old...what else could i do???? absolutley nothing!!!! i wouldn't change it for the world...besides with two little kids and a big fat mortgage, do i have a choice??? love your site...the camerapeon

Bluedog Photog said...

Field research, so that's what you call it these days. Love it! As many have stated before I find myself in that same boat many times but somehow still enjoy getting up in the morning and coming to work. As long as that holds true, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do. OK, so I can think of a few things...

pgh_shooter said...

I feel your board meetings, fender benders, "breaking news" that consists of an abandonded house that the assignment desk spotted on the competition's 10pm news....but there is something addictive to the flashing policel lights and backstage interviews that is hard to give up...