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?