“So why do you TV news people always interview the biggest goobs and losers you can find?” asked a new neighbor.
“Because,” I said “they’re the ones who seek us out. It’s a socio-economic thing. Or maybe it’s educational. Either way, folks with reasoned opinions and large vocabularies don’t flag down news crews quite the way guys with gravy stains on their t-shirt do.”
My new neighbor nodded as if my answer sufficed, but I could tell that it didn’t. Truth is, I’ve never figured out exactly why some people shun my lens while others sprint through heavy traffic to tell me and the audience how the tornado sounded ‘just like a freight train’. As far as I can tell, the decision to comment on camera correlates directly with how much authority you invest in said logo’d device. Let me explain. I can waltz into a thousand dollar a plate fundraiser with my fancy-cam in tow and feel they looks of disdain radiating from somewhere above the rubber-chicken entrees. That same day, I can roll into a public housing project full of curious crime-scene watchers and be treated like a visiting emissary. Why exactly, I don’t know - but being received as a conquering hero one moment and a filthy leper the next is a sensation anyone who’s shouldered a lens for very long can write a book on.
Like the time a woman turned away from the house fire that was swallowing everything she owned to repeatedly ask me that age old question, “What time will this be on?”
Or the time a group of disgruntled airline passengers demanded I use my aging betacam to get their cancelled flights immediately re-scheduled. I blamed my inability to do so on dying batteries and they seemed okay with it.
How about the hundreds of times I’ve used my gear to gain access to the freshly bereaved? I’m still amazed at how many people will talk to the press before their loved ones are even in the ground.
Even the happier times are just as perplexing. I still don’t know what that mob of drunken Halloween revelers wanted from me when they bum-rushed the ice machine I was standing on and began singing “You Can’t Touch This.”
Nope, no matter how long you heft a lens for a living, you never really know how some people will react when you stick a lens in their face. Hey, while I’m on the subject of close encounters, here’s a tip for the general populace:
Say you’re out in public and a telegenic young woman approaches you with a question about a current issue. Behind her, a scruffy enough chap climbs out of a brightly decorated SUV and opens the tailgate. While he scrounges around in this mysterious vehicle, the woman moves closer and engages you in conversation, all while holding a tubular device with a familiar symbol down by her side. As you answer the woman’s open ended queries, you notice the scruffy one moving in slowly behind her. As he grows closer, he lifts an awkward dark object and places it on your shoulder, its strange, reflective surface almost winking at you. At the same time, the well-coiffed female who’s been talking all the while raises her shiny pointy thingy at your face and raises her eyebrows in feigned consternation….
Are you ready? Here comes the clue….
IT’S A #%$@ TV NEWS CREW! THEY WANNA TALK TO YOU - ON CAMERA! YOU CAN AGREE TO DO SO OR NOT, BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S RIGHTEOUS, DON’T ACT SURPRISED WHEN A DUO DRAPED IN YOUR LOCAL STATION’S LOGOS AND HOLDING HEAVY EQUIPMENT ACTUALLY WANNA POINT THE DAMN THING AT YOU! IT’S A CAMERA, NOT A CONSPIRACY! CHANCES ARE THE NICE PEOPLE WITH THAT CRAZY GEAR JUST WANNA GET SOME LUNCH, NOT WASTE THEIR TIME EXPLAINING THE BASIC CONCEPT OF BROADCAST TELEVISION TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NO INTENTION OF ALLOWING THEMSELVES TO BE RECORDED IN THE FIRST PLACE! EITHER FORM A WILLING SENTENCE OR TELL THEM TO GET LOST - THEY’LL GLADLY GO AWAY! BUT FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE HUMAN RACE, DO NOT SPIN CIRCLES, DROP TO A CROUCH OR HYPERVENTILATE JUST BECAUSE THE LOCAL NEWS BUNNY AND HER CAMERA NERD THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING WORTHY TO SAY!
P.S.) The above outburst has absolutely nothing to do with the hapless lady I spooked yesterday with my lens, microphone and highly-identifiable ride. Apparently she thought I was ‘with the paper’.
That is all.