Monday, June 12, 2006

So That Others May Preen

In a recent thread focusing on the various ways broadcasters go about filling their newscasts, Frank McBride revealed a clever, albeit crass war cry often overheard in his neck of the newsroom.

Launch the Probe!” a desk dork would bellow as an unfortunate photog loaded up in a live truck and steered it into the abyss. Cute … I can just see the deskies high-five each other as they chortle over their air-conditioned brilliance, all while someone with twice the experience and three times the tripod scars ventures off into the storm, the ghetto, or worst of all - the incalculably protracted County Commissioners Meeting. As one who has spent the last decade and a half staging these unlikely sorties, I gotta tell you, the fun (and the frustration) is in the field. Besides, who wants their news served to them on a silver platter?

Not me. I’d much rather cross my fingers behind my back while I sweet talk the guy at the roadblock, than pace under a bank of TV screens and claim victory based on freeze-dried clich├ęs, revved-up graphics and the cruelties of counting backwards. That way I remain seaworthy, a modern day news pirate who isn’t afraid of hostile waters and competitors’ carronades. If I’m mangling metaphors, forgive me, but I’m transcribing from notes I took while circling the block for a better view of some temporary tempest. Judging from my penmanship, I was quite stoked at the time - but that’s what happens when you spend a lifetime turning today’s scanner traffic into tomorrow’s water cooler chat.

Trouble is the open news road is the path to career-long obscurity. No matter how quickly we photogs take that next hill, it is the manager, the producer, the main anchor who swoops in at the last moment and plants the flag in the name of the almighty affiliate. Oh well - at least I have my pride. That and the quiet knowledge that I stand a better chance of making history than my newsroom bound brethren. After all, if nefarious aliens ever do crash land their vessel on our heartless orb, it’s a safe bet some news photographer will be the first schmuck to get his melon scrambled. Look for that footage on the six o clock news. While you do, I gotta boogie. Seems there are some glowing rocks making weird noises out in Lake Cesspool and the desk wants me to ‘put some eyes on it’.

Anybody seen my sunglasses?


HockeyPat said...

Looks like that happens in all industries.

I've long ago accepted that I'm a foot soldier destine to fall on the grenade while my betters graciously expect the award. I’m just “one of the many” people that helps make it happen. But the boss man always gets his name on the trophy.

What can you do!

Anonymous said...

Hi...I've been reading your blog for a couple of months....I am a former news photog.....1969 through 1996...starting in Peoria, IL, ending in Indianapolis (15 years) with stops in Wichita and have watched the evolution of TV news from a picture driven medium to a personality driven medium. I have empathy for you because without you and photogs like you, the hairspray jockeys, human microphone stands and those callow producers would have nothing. Nothing. I think that for photographers, the defining moment or point of no return came during the period when film gave over to tape, allowing anyone to produce usable images with little or no training and when photogs were forced to run live trucks, making them more engineers than storytellers.

I now work in the corporate world and the discipline I learned in TV news....planning and implementing a project successfully in 8 hours or less...have served me well. I have to say, though, I enjoy being able to actually answer my phone at home without getting an upset stomach and I really enjoy watching those poor bastards out in the pouring rain or the driving sleet telling the rest of us how awful the weather is, while knowing that all the desk riders back in the newsroom will be warm and dry. I digress.....In any event sometimes I think sometimes that TV news photogs have evolved like cowboys. My regret is that myself and my brothers (and sisters) allowed (insert your own adjective here) AEs,producers, reporters and NDs to devalue our product and contribution until we are afterthoughts...inconvenient, but necessary second class colleagues.