Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All I Want for Christmas...

The vest, that jaunty stance, those freakishly white shoes - I think I'm in love! At least as much as a suburban father of two can be with a twelve inch action figure. Don't ask why. Okay, perhaps it's because he reminds me so much of me - should I get shipped overseas, don oddly-cut dungarees and forget how to properly hold a TV news camera. Whatever the case, I want one, which is why I'm forever positioning him front and center on my humble site. Here's the plan: Either I score some unlikely endorsement deal with the makers of said doppelganger - or for once Mrs. Lenslinger checks out my blog and drops a suitable hint in Santa's ear. Otherwise I'll be forced to place the order myself, then play dumb when the swarthy little dude arrives via big brown truck. Then and only then would I have a proper media member to disaptch should calamity break out at my daughter's Barbie Dreamhouse. Hey, it could happen...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Grandma and Me

Grandma and Me
Sure, my high school reunion was fun - even if I did remain stoic and sober while the rest of my old classmates grew increasingly silly (you know who you are, Deborah). But even that country club affair couldn't compare to my rendezvous with Rosa Mae Canady - the beloved matriarch of my particular clan. At age 95, she's barely aware of camera-phones or the internet - and you can rest assured she's never heard of 'lenslinger'. What she does know is the suffusion of sunshine, for her mere presence brightens the heart of even her most melancholy descendant. Though I seriously doubt I've inherited her longevity, I'd like to think I got my love of reading from my Mother's Mom. It's just one of the many gifts this special lady passed along and I'm so very glad my own children have come to know her well. Here's hoping your Grandmother rocks as much as mine.

Photogs on Parade

Via News Blues, word of a station that thinks so much of its photog staff - it actually put their bio's online. If that strikes you as no big deal, then you haven't surfed alot of TV station websites. If you had, you'd know most are electronic shrines to stiff-haired talent - generic Kens and Barbies that look strikingly like their on-air opponents across the street, state and nation. Not WTSP. The Tampa, Florida CBS affiliate not only post their lenslingers' names and pictures; they even include background information and examples of their work. Why, it's almost as if the suits at WTSP consider their photog staff to be equal partners in the newsgathering process! Talk about a novel concept...

Okay, so perhaps I'm overselling it. Lots of stations recognize the hard working men and women behind the lens for what they are - the overburdened backbone of their operations. Some even beat WTSP to the punch by including photog blurbs on their websites long ago. But for every forward-thinking powerhouse, there are easily a dozen cess-pool shops where any newsroom member without a stack of glossy headshots and a fresh Sharpie is considered sub-human. Luckily, that doesn't include my employer. El Ocho is known far and wide for harboring intensive lensers. Whatsmore, the on-air cats I work with truly seem to appreciate the skills we pack mules bring to the broadcast. Hell, we were even named medium market Station of the Year by something called the NPPA. Who knew?

Sadly though, there exist many an affiliate where inequality is the status quo - especially in smaller markets, where anchor ego is often inversely proportionate to the region's population. I'm reminded of an o-l-d colleague - a newsreader so vain and vacuous, her co-workers rightly considered her a human cartoon. Once, when a hapless news shooter mistakenly sat in her chair, she lambasted the poor guy for absconding with her throne. "Why, I don't even know that boy's name!" she bragged to a cohort. Come to think of it, I'm having a hard time remembering her name - as she was soon exiled from employ for being quite simply, an abomination. Last I heard, she was slumming on the far end of the public access dial - over-emoting on cue for anyone unlucky enough to have misplaced their remote control.

Perhaps there is a Broadcast God, after all.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bitter Hippie

I’m taking a brief break from the blog so I can step back in time and attend my 20 year high school reunion. While I spend the weekend glossing over details of shenanigans past, there’s someone you need to know.

Meet Matt Jensen, rock-solid photog, Grateful Dead devotee and at times, a hard guy to love. But love him I do. From the very first day I sauntered into El Ocho, this 1970’s throwback and I quickly hit it off. Books, music, movies - our tastes may have differed but we shared a common language; the embittered, jargon-rich tongue of the grizzled lenslinger. For every angst-ridden yarn I spin, Matt could do me one better with a real-life war story from his time behind the glass. He’s also a righteous imbiber. His fortieth birthday bash from a few years back is one of my favorite Piedmont memories - even if I do recall only a few fuzzy frames of that crowded soiree.

Lately though, Matt and I have grown a little distant. Chalk it up to the competitive stress of prolonged camera combat. Or maybe it’s the by-product of two crusty souls not entirely happy with their ongoing plight. Whatever the reason, the gulf between us has truly bummed me out - for life’s far too fleeting to be pissy with those that matter the most. So consider this post an electronic step in the right direction, for aside from being one of my favorite humans, Matt is the quintessential TV news photog: surly observer, cynical lensmith, artist at heart. He may foster a caustic persona, but deep down inside he’s a real cream-puff, albeit one that would rip open your jugular if you entered his edit bay without first paying the proper respects. Consider yourself warned.

Trust Your Gut

Well, now I’ve done it - gone and robbed myself of any excuse ever to complain about my job again. In short, I’ve turned down a golden opportunity to leave the world of electronic newsgathering. Protocol prevents me from sharing the details, but let’s just say it was a rare chance to stay in television but out of the newsroom. Not too long ago I would have gladly gargled broken glass and Texas Pete to stage such an escape, but when it came time to ditch my fancy-cam and run, I just couldn’t do it. ‘Why’, you ask? Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but you see...I’m a newsman.

That’s right, a newsman. Though I began my career producing used car lots and fat lady dress shop commercials, things didn’t really kick into high gear until I picked up a news camera. Suddenly, a blur of Easter egg hunts and drive-by shootings raced through my lens, holding my attention the way thrift store ads never really did. Of course, that newscast magnetism weakened over the next decade and a half. Crank out years and years of the same news cycle and you too will reach maximum burnout. It’s one of the reason so many of my gifted colleagues have sought ground higher than that of your average news set.

Despite all those defections, I’ve stuck with it - though at times I’ve displayed frighteningly embittered tendencies. I’m not particularly proud of it, but at the time raging at the machine felt quite justified. Still does, sometimes. Which is why it makes no sense that I pass up a chance to rid myself of the news unit shackles. That is, until my gut speaks up. Call it conscience, heart or Jiminy Cricket, we all have it - that insistent, interior voice that speaks with painful frankness. I’ve ignored mine a few times over the years and have suffered for my obstinacy. One particular example springs to mind...

At age 27, I was a one-man-band reporter/photog at my second station. Always more talented behind the camera than in front of it, I tortured the region nonetheless with nightly vignettes featuring my furry mug. It was great. I worked out of a bureau, far from the politics of the newsroom and relished the freedom and the friends I’d made at crime scenes and train wrecks. Problem was though, I felt abused. No matter how many breathless reports I filed, my lack of on-air polish destined me to a career of endless deadlines and damn few perks. Back then, I still held onto a dream of making it on-air - even though I was never very good at it. Meanwhile a bevy of overgroomed beauties came and went - all reaping the rewards of the star-making machine that a scruffy stutterer like myself would never enjoy. Slowly I realized I’d always be a foot-soldier in the War on News.

Which is why, I entertained the idea of a certain dark overlord. I was pounding out a script in my dumpy little bureau when the call came. A smarmy voice I’d come to loathe pitched an enticing scenario. ‘Wouldn’t I like to come to the promotions department and produce on-air ads for the station?’ The offer entailed a bit more money, but besides that - it presented a chance to escape what was beginning to feel like a dead-end career. My wife was expecting our first child at the time and the opportunity felt like the Right Thing To Do.

Without giving it too much thought, I said ‘Yes’ and hung up the phone. But I couldn’t let go of the receiver. Instead I could only stare at it as the annoying beep echoed through my small office. Over that particular din however, another sound ricocheted through my brain. “You‘ll regret this”, my small voice said, “You‘ll regret this…” And I did. After a couple of years of cranking out tripe for a jack-hole of a boss, I ran away screaming to a Piedmont newsroom. My foray down the hall taught me a lot, but it interrupted the trajectory of my career. It’s taken me years to make up for it. I swore back then I’d never again ignore that voice, for it most always knows better than I.

Now that I’ve been presented with another seemingly easy escape, that same voice is screaming at me. I’d be a fool not to listen, even if it does seem intent on keeping me mired in the highly stressful world of TV news. Someday the right offer will come along and I’ll happily fork over my keys to Unit 4 and the freedom it affords me. This however, ain’t it. Or so I’m told. Oh - as for that ‘never complaining about my job again’ shtick? Don’t hold me too it. The next time a deadline or a live truck acts up, I reserve the right to go nuclear, for despite my celebrated lack of sheepskin, I hold a Masters Degree in Bitch and Moan.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Adventures of a Beltway VJ

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mitch. He's the one on the right - a hulking marshmallow of a guy who, until very recently, demanded of me countless bumps, endless teases and a myriad of evening re-cuts. Not an easy task, when Yours Truly is trying to slither out the door. But as tough a gig as his editor's position proved to be, young Mitchell yearned for something even more punishing. He wanted to be...a photog. And not just any photog, either - but one of those newfangled models that not only shoots video, but gathers facts, writes scripts and appears ON Camera. That's right, our boy's gonna be a VeeJay!

Now put down that urine-balloon, Mr. 'Senior Staff Shooter'. Just because you made your bones in an simpler time doesn't mean our man Mitch should. He'd be a fool not to hone every skill he's yet to possess - from camera-handling to adverb-tweakage to those frazzled laptop-endectomies that separate the finessed from the fat-fingered. Why, I told Mitch as much and so did others. With his most adamant career advice coming from a bunch of grown men dressed like fourteen year old tourists, he was right to cipher on it a bit. When we announced his decision, we all feigned concern and briefly considered toilet-papering his car. But with his towering stature in mind, we thought better of it and - after a intense session of Rock/Paper/Scissors - took turns shaking his ham-sized hand.

Now that Mitch is lodged just outside Capitol City, his VeeJay-ification is firmly underway. Best of all, he's launched an already entertaining blog! So do drop by and give him Lenslinger's regards. But be nice! Dude is huge...

Schmuck Watch: Kenny's on the Mound

Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers is reportedly bringin' the heat in this year's World Series and we here at Viewfinder Blues couldn't be more dismayed. Why? The man's a knuckle dragging oaf - an overpaid barbarian short on chromosomes and prone to childish tantrums. How else can you explain his intense hatred of TV cameras - the very tools that help publicize his globe-shattering ability to ... throw a ball really fast? Without those ubiquitous lenses, chances are this pampered millionaire would be back in Whose-ville, peppering underage bat girls with pockmarked softballs whenever things didn't go well on his hometown mound. Instead he enjoys the jet-set adulation of the super-rich, all while turning the act of being a complete ass into performance art. In other words, Me No-Likee Kenny Rogers. It's because of that eloquent thesis that I will force myself to keep a distant eye on the World Series - an athletic event I'm usually only dimly aware of - if only because it rids my station of evening newscasts every October. So be on notice, Frankenstein, cause I'm watching YOU! Hopefully St. Louis will send you back to the lab, but if you do happen to win this thing, I'll be the first to duck - should all that bottled jock-juice causes your neckbolts to shoot across the infield and take out some hapless print reporter. Schmuck!

Oh yeah, GO CARDS!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Loopy and the Live Truck

Wet and Stupid
I can't fully explain what my colleague Caron Myers and I are doing in the above camera phone offering, but chalk up the weirdness to deteriorating conditions. See, when you're executing a needless live shot in the driving rain, you can take two approaches: Mutter profusely at the insipidness of it all, or hover over the generator and soak up the fumes. It's a living.

Foilage at Eleven

Midday ViewI knew I was in for a trip this morning when I found The Suits hunched over a map and muttering my name. Minutes later I was headed West, flipping through my on-board CD stash and trying to remember the quickest way to the Parkway. That’s the Blue Ridge Parkway to the uninitiated - 400 some miles of twisting ridgeline that’s breathtaking any time of year, let alone October, when the autumn palette of a trillion drying leaves will suck the breath out of the average flatlander. That includes me, for back home you can see for m-i-l-e-s from the bed of a pick-up truck - if you can look past all those scraggly pines. Here in the Piedmont however, rolling foothills boast every kind of hardwood tree under the sun. Dash uphill and you’ll find even more stately columns - all individually crowned in their own rippling hue. In case you haven’t guessed yet - I dig me some trees. Had I been a sailor in the Age of Discovery, I would have surely fancied myself a naturalist - though I’d have probably earned my berth by cranking out daguerreotypes of jaunty explorers. But I’m not a turn-of-the-century deckhand, I’m a flustered purveyor of pixilated fluff who specializes in the quick-turn. Who better to send screaming uphill on a dare and a deadline? Sure, you could dispatch Chet Grey-Temples, but is he gonna bring back a few extra impressions for you folks in the cheap seats? I think not.

With more than an hour and a half to drive each way - I only had about ninety minutes on-scene. Thus I wasted no time leaf-gaping - choosing instead to drive with a purpose along the windy mountain passes. I found this makes all those grannies in passing Cadillacs v-e-r-y nervous.

Ten miles into the Parkway, I found what I was hunting for - humans! Sure, I came for the leaves, but it’s awful hard to wring good sound-bites out of molting oaks. Thus, I needed tourists - especially since my story revolved around the Parkway’s latest efforts to attract more rubber-neckers.

The first sentient beings to fall victim to my lens were four young college kids. Sitting cross-legged on the ground outside a rest stop, they barely looked up from their apples and organic peanut butter at the approaching cheese-ball with the oversized fancy cam. God bless the Granolas!

They said they were cycling to Asheville and I was instantly jealous. Then I saw their two-wheeled steeds and did a double-take. These were no designer bikes, but second-hand ten-speeds laden with camping gear. Later when I watched them hurtle past a precipice at breakneck speed, I remembered what it felt like to be immortal.

With the kids quickly shedding altitude, I was left with only the senior citizens to interview. Using my best manners, I cornered a few grandparents in windbreakers and elicited sound. All was going well until an errant grandma broke from the pack and repeatedly asked if ‘I knew Rupert Murtaugh?’ I was halfway down the mountain when I realized she meant ’Rupert Murdoch’. And no, I don’t. Yet.

With six interviews in the can, I threw my gear in the back of Unit 4 and dropped it into Drive. I was free at last from the shackles of interaction, with nothing left to do but assemble the eye-candy I’d need to dress up my facts. Sadly, this is what I live for.

A few minutes later, I perched my sticks on the edge of an overlook and pointed it wherever my fancy demanded. It may sound like random fun, but inside my skull I was assembling segues that didn’t exist yet. Wide, medium, tight…I was repeating my mantra when an old coot in a passing pick-up slowed down and bellowed, “How can I get a job like that?”

‘You might not want it old man’ I thought as I pushed my glass to its limits. Sure it looks simple, but there is a science, art and work ethic involved here, Gramps. Wrapping myself around my sticks, I went back to work - wondering why the old guy thought my gig was so damn great. It wasn’t until I viewed the meager results of all my efforts from the comfort of my laptop, did I figure out he was probably right.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chip's Trip Clip

Chip the Cat
Meet Chip, the laid-back cat who got me out of yesterday's motorcade parade. For that I owe him a kibble or two, but chances are I'll have to stand in line just to feed him. See, Chip's the animal overlord of a Lexington glass shop, a feline greeter to anyone who wanders in with a chipped windshield and a lousy day. When he first disappeared, the shop owners only shrugged; everyone knows Chip loves the lay-DEEZ. But this lothario never made his date. Instead he took a joy-ride, getting his whiskers splayed all over the evening news in the process. This only adds to his legend of course. In fact, this whimsical vignette makes me a co-conspirator of sorts. See if you can spot the cameo and the mistake...

Chances Are You're a Photog

If you keep a mental list of low overpasses, clean skylines and greasy spoons, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you feel socially awkward at cocktail parties, yet will gladly walk into a police sniper’s crosshairs with a loaded tripod slung over your shoulder, chances are you’re a Photog.

I f you can make a three-story escape ladder from your collection of press-pass lanyards, chances are you’re a Photog.

If your idea of proper funeral attire is a pair of wrinkled cargo pants, unpolished hiking boots and a station golf shirt buttoned all the way to the top, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you know just where to go should the mayor be brought up on illicit yak-smuggling charges, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you’ve grown to a despise a new co-worker just as half the state has deemed them favorite regional newcomer, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you find yourself admiring the backlight shimmering off the pizza guy’s hat as he hands you your third deep-dish of the week, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you feel any SUV with enough splashy logos should be allowed to exceed the speed limit in the breakdown lane and park in handicap spots, chances are you’re a Photog.

If you know more than one overnight dispatcher, two fast-food managers and three obese bailiffs by first name basis, chances are you’re a Photog.


If you can field-strip an expensive piece of recording equipment in two minutes, but still pretend not to understand the newsroom’s phone system, chances are you’re a Photog.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Presidential Pardon

DSCF0063With President Bush swinging through the area, I fully expected to be up to my lens in Secret Service agents by now. But a mid-morning pardon freed me from that sentence and before my bosses could change their mind, I was speeding off to the smallest of stories. Call me a creepy old loner, but there's nothing better than taking a quiet drive through the country while the rest of your co-horts clamor after the leader of the free world. I didn't always feel that way. As a younger news-dork I floored it toward headlines at brazen speeds, hellbent to be the first photog to poke around the perimeter. These days, I'll take a pass - knowing the next time a visiting dignitary whips up the local papparazzi, I won't be able to wiggle out of the camera scrum. Besides, you been hassled by one guy in a suit and sunglasses, you been hassled by 'em all.

Just ask Weaver.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Sue, with a valid point: "It's unfortunate that you are equating the conference with the RMA report dissemination. Other than the timeliness of the two events, there's no relationship. I wish you would reconsider, even at the cost of a clever headline, conflating the two."

Normally I enjoy putting local bloggers on the news. Today, not so much. Why exactly is complicated, which isn’t the least bit surprising since the story at hand is so full of twists and subterfuge. I’ll try to boil it down. When best selling author Jerry Bledsoe began serializing the city’s police department’s sordid regime change in a free weekly newspaper, eyes widened at the scurrilous behavior contained within. Cries of racism, international drug cartels, steamy stripper parties - it seems the Wray Fray had it all. Problem is, not everyone that makes up the Thin Blue Line around here liked seeing the department’s soiled undies flapping in the breeze. So someone leaked a confidential document - a public-funded investigation summary called the RMA Report that, while countering some of Bledsoe‘s claims, reveals the Greensboro Police Department to be an organization seemingly awash in skulduggery. Soon, the RMA was everywhere and though the newspaper and TV stations acknowledged they had a copy, none of the mainstream media divulged its contents. Then, along came the blogs.

Roch Under FireThere was much discussion of the leaked report at last weekend’s ConvergeSouth. Most local bloggers wanted to see the RMA report on-line but since it contains information that is part of a criminal investigation, no one wanted to risk a lawsuit by publishing it on their site. Still, few left convinced the troublesome document wouldn’t soon find a home on-line and the next day it appeared anonymously posted to Greensboro101 - the aggregator of record maintained by Roch Smith, Jr. (pictured here). Though Roch claims not to know who posted the warts-and-all report to his site, he wasn't surprised by the fact that someone did. Chances are though, he didn’t see the backlash coming.

Carmany at LargeSandy Carmany was the first to defect. The Greensboro City Council member (pictured here) has received national acclaim for serving her constituents through her simple blog. As the one local cyber-writer most familiar with the RMA’s litigious ingredients, she urged everyone to proceed with great caution - if proceed at all. When she saw the report on Greensboro101, she promptly announced she wished to be de-linked. Almost immediately, members of 101’s editorial board (of which until recently, included me) announced they were resigning their positions on the spot. This is all the more shocking considering the mutual admiration on display at A&T just this past weekend. It would seem the RMA report carried with it a curse.

When Caron Myers and I turned the camera on Carmany and Smith, each stated their cases with reason and authority. The same can be said for Ben Holder, whose rainy interview outside Stamey’s smacked of a Deep Throat rendezvous in some anonymous parking deck. Watergate comparisons aside, the Wray Fray and the RMA is a hot mess. Partnerships have been strained, litigation hinted at and hard feelings formulated overnight - all while some officers accused of scandalous acts continue to enforce laws that apparently don’t apply to them. You could say I’m disappointed, but not surprised - for the bloated ego of a dirty cop knows no bounds. Hege taught me that much. I just wish this latest debacle wouldn’t sully the local blogosphere - a teeming scene of very smart folk who’ve already broken new ground in citizen media. My guess is Roch will come out of this okay and Greensboro101 will quickly coalesce, though it’s a good deal murkier how the Gate City’s police department will ever redeem itself. One thing is certain, however. The area’s mainstream media will never ignore the local blogosphere again. Quite simply, they can’t afford to.

Up A Tree

Up a Tree
Look closely and you'll spot yours truly dodging hostile squirrel-fire, as reporter Bob Buckley daydreams about his prep school days down below. What you can't see is Jim and Jan O'Malley, a delightful retired couple from up North who hunt land mines of sorts. That's right, they're professional Pooper Scoopers. If you find it strange that I'd shimmie up a tree to capture such a thing, well then you've never shot a dog shit safari. If you had, you'd know a little foreground - and a little distance - is a good thing.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You and the Tube

Pop Culture critic David Hajdu files one of the more enlightening YouTube epistles for the New York Times, in which he traces the birth of the pre-recorded clip, courtesy of a pre-Mork Jonathan Winters...
...50 years ago this month, it was told the network would be conducting a test of a new technology. The musical interlude in that week’s show, a two-and-a-half minute song by the ever-bubbly Dorothy Collins (then beloved as one of the stars of “Your Hit Parade”), had been performed the day before the broadcast, captured through an experimental process called videotape recording, and inserted into the otherwise live telecast. The video era had begun.
But networks regarded videotape as a delivery device, not a new paradigm of performance.
Jonathan Winters saw something more in that R.C.A. tape machine the size of a Frigidaire sitting in his studio. Within weeks of that broadcast of Dorothy Collins’s recorded tune, he concocted a routine using videotape to appear as two characters, bantering back and forth, seemingly in the studio at the same time. You could say he invented the video stunt, planting the creative seed for the wild overgrowth of gag clips that last week earned YouTube a sale price of $1.65 billion.
Hajdu goes on to blame the ubiquitous video sharing site for reducing the once groundbreaking medium to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps, but the participatory aspect of web-based footage more than makes up for its often pedestrian subject matter. Just ask Steve Bryant.
It's precisely our lack of awe for video and its attendent technologies that makes social media possible, and the promise of social media is to reach beyond media's presentational value and control its power to connect. YouTube may be a displayer, but it's also a connector on an unprecedented scale. YouTube users actively subscribe to other users. They comment on videos. They post videos back. And somewhere along the way they've invented a new aesthetic. Sure, it's self-conscious playacting. But what other way, when the audience has become actor? When the very idea of suspending disbelief for thirty to sixty minutes is no longer en vogue?
Obviously, Hadju and Bryant are straining brain cells I ain’t got. But even a rumpled photog like myself can grasp the difference between passively watching what the wide-screen drags in and gathering mini-vignettes on-line and on-demand. From collating clips that catch my attention to distributing my own demented desktop masterpiece, why would I ever want to just sit and stare at someone else’s tube? I mean - have you seenDancing With the Stars?’ I haven’t. I’ve been to way too busy, squinting at a tiny box on my screechy laptop as the mammoth HD sits in the corner and quietly gathers dust. Perhaps content is king, after all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

ConvergeSouth Link Love

When I mentioned to my TV news colleagues I’d be spending the weekend at a blogger’s conference of sorts, snickers emitted from the crowd.

“Huh! You guys wearin’ your Star Trek uniforms?”

I laughed and offered a rude hand gesture as retort before their conversation turned back to the loftier realms of Nascar and the NFL. But their petty scorn didn’t deter me from thoroughly enjoying the annual summit of thinkers, geeks and madmen known as ConvergeSouth, That the attendees all operate or enjoy local websites may be their only shared characteristic. Otherwise, they’re strikingly scattershot - from the overly earnest to the outright odd, the personalities behind the pixels proved delightfully diverse. But what unites us is the raging cyber-life we all lead, on-screen personas more important to us than we’d probably like to admit. I for one dwell deeply on the ideas, images and axioms I park on this page and I’m on the shallow end of the passion pool. But whatever the level of our obsessions, the blogging community of greater Greensboro is a potent one indeed. I am proud to be but a tangential member, as the echoes of others have kept me blogging far longer than first predicted. Thus I present you with the following link-letter, in which I give a lusty shout-out to everyone but Mr. Spock himself. And that filthy Vulcan knows where I am if he wants to apologize. Meanwhile, let’s meet the players:

One cannot begin to discuss ConvergeSouth without recognizing its architects. Acerbic oracle Ed Cone, cyber-sage Sue Polinsky and the ever-wise Ben Hwang have constructed an un-conference that reflects the teeming scene it seeks to represent. In other words, these folks know how to get their geek on.

The wife and I kicked things off with a rare date night at Hoggard’s Blog-R-Cue. There we dined on the finest swine while enjoying conversation not found in the average cul-de-sac. I especially enjoyed commiserating with the Brothers Coon, from the activist writings of Sean to the filmmaking aspirations of Andy. Damn, those fellas sure do think a lot.

When not shoveling top-shelf pork into my pie-hole, I caught up with fellow peddler of the moving image Tom Lassiter - a magnanimous cat far too generous with his praise for my scribblings. As I issued the occasional ’Aw Shucks’ my wife Shelly met the man behind Mr. Sun, a sprite like individual who just happens to be a brilliant cyber-satirist. More on him later.

Despite the pork flank fellowship available at Hogg‘s, the real fun started the following morning when the lot of us gathered at A&T University. There we filed into the main hall where headliners Elizabeth Edwards and Robert Scoble helped kick off the day’s festivities with a bracing exchange of ideas, opinions, and URL’s, not to mention those homemade blog cards Billy so favors.

Although many a stranger was in attendance, I chose to chat with the usual suspects and a smattering of newer names. Of the latter was Joel Leonard, a prophet of the maintenance industry I’ve put on TV a time or two. Then there’s Jonathan Davis, Matt Hill Comer and print reporter Joe Killian, one of the more self-assured 24 year olds I’ve ever met. Throw in the eerily composed Sam Wharton and there may very be well be hope for our future.

In the present day, a blinding orb lights the way. Jim Rosenberg, recently unmasked as Mr. Sun, eagerly presented the most substantive of sessions, a insightful plea for on-line civility. Were I a sit-com producer, I’d pair this affable chap with the ever-irascible Jeff Martin whose well-honed vitriol and wacky-neighbor warble makes for such fun at Vie De Malchance. It’d be gold, baby , gold!

On a more somber, there was serious journamalism to discuss. Thus, I joined a room of very smart newspaper people for a dissertation on ‘Building a Media Culture within the News Organization.’ N&R Editor John Robinson graciously asked me to help lead the session, but when it bogged down in print minutia, I remained mum. Only at the end did I give my analysis of that industry’s death throes, though perhaps I did employ too much hyperbole. Whadaya expect from a guy who used to make used car lot spots?

Though I never saw Chewie, I did catch up with the newly shorn Brian Clarey, whose happy hipster patter doesn’t erase the fact he needs me writing for his fine free weekly. Until then I’ll enjoy the occasional Ovittore piece and all those nubile revelers featured in the back of his rag. It’s the least I can do for not attending the event’s many musical venues.

Before I could fill my pockets with business cards and free bagels, the last session ended and ConvergeSouth was all of a sudden over. On the way out of the building, I eavesdropped on a fascinating discussion over who might dare publish the RMA report - a once confidential police department report currently available to anyone with two cans and a string. Blogsboro’s handling of said document will no doubt forge new ground in citizen media scandal-handling.

Before hitting the parking lot, I rendezvoused with professional troublemaker Ben Holder, met hulking gadfly Will R., reintroduced myself to Billy Ingram, shook Dave Beckwith’s hand, smiled at Sandy Carmany and yakked with Daniel Rubin. Last but not least I talked jazz and jumper cables with David Boyd in the parking lot until his pick-up was sufficiently charged-up.

Driving away, I was equally amped, Once again ConvergeSouth proved an intriguing way to spend a small part of my October. Maybe next year we can get some wireless microphones, so all those Donahue wannabes don’t risk strangulation. Until then, I’ll be right here, polishing my blog, pruning my prose and programming my tri-corder.

Cathedral of Decay

While I collect my thoughts on ConvergeSouth, have some eye candy. This particular vista comes to us from the Owl's Roost bike trail, where the hardwood forest rots in Technicolor. Fo more of this elegant corrosion, click HERE. otherwise surf back in a bit for everything you didn't want to know about who I huddled with yesterday.

Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

For This I Payed Tuition?

Professor StewA big dip of the lens to my colleague Brad Jones, who invited me to talk to his Broadcast News Writing class at UNC-Greensboro today. The topic: TV news, emerging media, on-line writing and of course, ConvergeSouth. Through it all, the students politely feigned interest while I rambled on about blogging and such. Some even managed to stay awake!

Calamity by Phone

When a Fox News photographer used his cell phone to transmit the first live ground pictures of yesterday’s plane crash, the pictures were blurry but the implications were clear. Camera-phones are an official part of the newsgathering arsenal We first saw the now ubiquitous gadgets used in this way during the London subway bombings, when bystanders and victims clicked grainy shots of the crippled tube’s interior. But the NYC crash coverage was the first time a major news organization fully embraced the technique, streaming the pictures live for a nervous nation to absorb.

Fuzzy footage from a minuscule device might not seem like a big deal on a story covered by helicopters and countless fancy-cams. But in the world of breaking news, success over competitors is measured in increments. That’s no doubt one of the reasons why FNC broadcast the images, and why you’ll see much more of the same in future calamities. For now the pictures procured from cell phones leave a lot to be desired. That will change as the technology improves. Even before that, news outlets will use the camera phone pictures of their staff and everyday folk, with little thought to framing and composition. That’s a good thing, as information is power - even if you have to squint a little to make it out.

Why, even your humble lenslinger goes nowhere without a tricked out cell phone capable of recording and sending both still images and limited video clips. I’ll use it too - if I can ever figure which buttons to push. Weaver?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This Blog's For You

Waiting for script
Meet The Photog - a student of the moving image, a master of time management and a lover of snazzy shirts. Normally you'll find him darting around town in some garish vehicle, moving at the speed of broadcast while mere humans shuffle about in slow-motion. It's precisely this momentum that keeps our hero on-task, for without it, pulling off the improbable on a daily basis just wouldn't happen. That's why it's so hard for him to loiter by the curb as his over-coiffed partner pounds out a script in the back of that rolling billboard. Chances are he'll only get a few minutes to turn her words into a symphony of sight and sound. His reward for meeting such an unreasonable deadline? The opportunity to do it all again tomorrow. And credit? Forget it.

Sure, a camera-toting colleague may notice a particularly well-lit sit-down or comment on an intricate edit, but nine times out of ten his efforts will go unrewarded. At best, his reporter will receive an accolade or two for all her hard work - but the kudos usually stop there. Don't feel sorry for him, though. His shifts are rarely dull, his misadventures are many and his on-the-job anecdotes crush those of mortal men. Whatsmore, his breed has an undying fan in yours truly. It's these multi-tasking, singularly driven individuals who inspire me to write every night. In doing so, I hope to expose their noble plight to a larger audience - even if I do tire of pretending to be one of them. Now move along, showtime ain't for another fifteen minutes...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Sore-Hand Companion

Sore Hand CompanionShould ever I perish in an unsavory way, there’s one item I’d like to avoid being judged on. It’s a burgundy, vaguely Bible-esque notebook - one I’ve spent the better part of a year filling with my own sacred text. That said, you’ll discover no revelations inside. Instead, you’ll find only bent prose, half-finished idioms and the occasional attempt at outright cartooning. I call it The Sore-Hand Companion. It is but the latest in a long line of tortured tablets. Bound in leather and of generic bookstore origin, it’s the grown-up version of the countless composition books I hoarded as a kid. Recently I unearthed a few of those adolescent tomes and, besides learning Lizard King lyrics seem most profound when locked in the throes of puberty, I realized I’d always been a writer.

Well, maybe not a writer, but at the very least a scribbler. From Hawkeye Pierce one-liners to the cleverest of half-finished paragraphs, I have practiced the art of scrapbook manifesto since I was knee-high to an adverb. Trouble was, I did little more than save these homemade diatribes. Convinced that everyone dictated their interior monologues, I gave little thought to my growing collection of tattered spirals - even if I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Now, as a gregarious loner who’s embraced the voice in his head, I savor the chance to take my notebook lover out to lunch - to sit in a corner booth of some soul food palace and take my pen, and my mind, out for a spin. Just where all these aborted manifestos will take me remains unseen, but - wretched penmanship aside - all this chicken-scratch lyricism has made for a very interesting trip.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a Red Hot Chili Peppers song I simply must capture in print. How does one properly annotate 'No chump love sucker', anyway?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Truisms of Newsgathering

Sixteen years cranking out ninety second vignettes hasn't taught me everything, but this, this, I know...

The average sheriff deputy will hack through a mile and a half of heavy underbrush to chop down a half dozen spindly pot plants if enough TV cameras tag along.

When covering hurricanes, dry socks trump the fanciest of sat-truck gadgets.

A certain breed of reporter will build his or her entire story on the one sound bite that is visually jarring, completely out of focus or barely audible.

There is no convenient time for a plane crash.

Late, noisy entrances to packed press conferences are simply unavoidable and should be judged solely on style.

Some news stories are impossible to produce, but the mass majority of them can be successfully executed merely by showing up on scene.

People watching their every possession burn are infinitely more compelling to photograph than the fire itself.

Millions of dollars of intricate and sophisticated broadcasting equipment can be rendered inert by one neglected nine volt battery.

Photogs have three natural enemies: rent-a-cops, rookie reporters and revolving doors.

The best news anchors still consider themselves reporters.

Women who spend an inordinate amount of time on their appearance will readily shun the camera. That guy in the gravy-stained beefy-T will talk all day.

With the right sunlight, even shattered windows wrapped in crime tape are beautiful.

No one is more cocky, swaggering and cynical than the 20-something show producer who rarely ventures outside the newsroom.

Trophies, awards and accolades past are great, but your immediate colleagues will only remember you for that piece of crap you put on air last week.

5 out of 10 PR people are downright delusional. Most of the rest are merely useless.

Dirty sheriffs, overdressed ghetto preachers and people with morning liquor on the breath deliver the best sound-bites.

The only folks more irrational than those who wave weaponry at police can be found ogling for face time at the County Commissioners meeting.

New city, new logo...same game.

Serge Brockman Reporting...

Serge Brockman Reporting
Okay, so maybe I never had the locutionary chops to succeed long-term as an on-air reporter, but as this 1991 self-shot stand-up proves, I damn sure had the hair. Weaker men have crafted whole careers out of lesser tresses...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Not Your Father's Press Conference

Hey, here’s something you’ve never heard me say before: "Mmm-Hmm. I’m sorry I missed that press conference.” Now, before you demand to know what I’ve done with the real Stewart Pittman, lemme 'splain...

Intrigue is afoot in Greensboro. At first, the bungled regime change of the city’s police department held little interest for me. I’m all for bureaucratic uproar, mind you - but the cries of racism and political wrongdoing in the Wray Case sounded an awful lot like the kinds of stories I’d covered before in other Southern cities. Happily, I avoided those assignments like the plague I believed them to be, training my lens on the happier side of the newscasts instead. But last week, as I slogged through a profile of an upscale clothier thirty miles away, news hawks of every description gathered around a podium at City Hall and a new media feeding frenzy ensued. Throw in coffee and donuts at the end and you may have the perfect presser…

But it wasn’t just the salacious source material. Sexual skylarking, dirty police and tracking devices - they’re the ingredients of a buddy cop blockbuster, all right. Just ask Jerry Bledsoe. Currently, the best selling author is doling out weekly morsels of the steamy controversy in his serialized investigation of the Wray matter - and moving lots of copies of a certain free weekly in the process. If that weren’t enough, the Gate City’s aggressive bloggeratti is also on the case, offering weekly synopsis, color commentary, and staggered jabs at satire. Whether you consider the whole affair to be proof positive of widespread corruption or a sordid witch hunt, even the most casual news consumer has to admit the coverage is cutting-edge. Take Friday’s microphone fiesta:

Alarmed at the weekly bombshells being lobbed by Bledsoe and the aftershock of blogger analysis, the city leaders called a news gathering to announce their answer to the swirl of cyber-chatter: their own website! Brilliant! Or so they thought. Truth is, the city only made it worse for themselves, for the gallery of rogues present at their podium were more than just the usual suspects. Sure the local newspaper and four TV news outlets showed up, but so did the citizenry - a plugged-in populace that make up for their lack of fancy lenses with their encyclopedic knowledge of the whole sensational mess. It’s that kind of acumen that can shame the professional chattering class come ‘question and answer time‘. Did the speakers squirm more at questions lobbed by the over-coiffed, or was it the insistent queries of the laptop press that made them fumble their attempted spin?

Hard to tell. But one thing’s for sure, the way this story is being unfurled is just as interesting as the myriad of misdeeds it chronicles. Whether you peruse the hard copy of each week’s installment, skim a local physician’s timely summations, admire the collation of a prophetic columnist, or chortle at a gadfly’s trenchant take - there are countless ways to absorb all this local shock and awe. As for me, I still check in with the lights and lenses crowd, surf my favorite aggregator and top it off with a local editor’s newspaper view. Maybe then I’ll be able to coherently dish the dirt with those linked above and many, many more - as Greensboro’s vibrant cyber-scene coalesces at that yearly summit known forever more as ConvergeSouth. It’s free, smart and perhaps a little hip. I’ll be there, ruining the cool ratio and looking for YOU.

Friday, October 06, 2006

VeeJays on NPR

Ever heard two friends debate an issue on NPR? I just did, thanks to a report on All Things Considered examining the hotly-contested V.J. model. For those not keeping score at home, it goes like this: Some TV stations are ditching the classic two-person news crew for multi-tasking one-man-bands, individuals who shoot, write, edit and front their own reports. As you might imagine, this move hasn't set well with the Photog Nation, who've for years honed their street-level cinematography skills while their over-coiffed partner sweats the details. Now, a debate that's burned up the industry message boards has hit critical mass, spilling over to the bucolic pastures of National Public Radio. I'll give 'em this though: the NPR people went to the source...

Up first, my old mentor Andy Cordan. A swashbuckling cop-shop reporter, Andy's one-man-band roots and brash delivery makes him the perfect VJ candidate. But even he was skeptical when his bosses announced they were going solo."There was a genuine sense of fear in this building," says Cordan.
"People that have been doing this for 20 years, and suddenly, like, it's no longer doing that. You used to make pizzas. Now you are going to polish rocks! Enjoy yourself."
Next, we hear from Brad Ingram, award-winning photog and current co-worker of yours truly. Brad's the quintessential news shooter - a practicing master of lighting, editing and the lens. He sees little merit in truncating skill sets.
"It comes down to adding more responsibilities to everybody's everyday duties," Ingram says. "That is where it gets to be a problem. When you are trying to multitask everything, you lose that quality."
Brad's got a point. So does Andy. Fact is, I'd gladly watch both their on-air products, from Brad's pristine camera-work to Andy's in-your-face lenslinging. Which newsgathering method will prevail ten years from now? Too soon to tell, but I'm guessing an amalgamation of both approaches will infiltrate every newsroom. By then, I'll probably be locked away in some upper room by then, cranking out greeting card scripts and raving about the good ole days while Cordan and Ingram break new ground in their respective disciplines. I'm okay with that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

One March Morning...

Go Back Inside!When David changed from his bartender’s uniform into camouflage and ski mask, he had no idea how many lives he was about to change...his own, the friends he was about to take hostage, and to a lesser degree, mine. I don’t claim to know what was going through his mind as he slipped out of the supply room dressed like some kind of masked G.I. Joe, but I guarantee he wasn’t thinking about SWAT cops, TV cameras and police negotiators. No, he was most likely planning on simply taking the money and running. But as he skulked around the just-closed restaurant, his sweaty palm gripping the gun handle, it was already too late. He’d set in motion a series of events that would alter the way a lot of people saw their world, including one long-haired TV geek - who more than fourteen years later, still thinks about that chilly March morning...

Gun to HeadBy now, long-time readers of this site are familiar with, if not sick of, The Applebee's Incident - a 1992 botched robbery turned hostage standoff that among many other things, launched my newsgathering career. Even though I wasn't exactly a practicing writer back then, I knew I'd attempt to fully describe it one day - if only to gain some badly needed perspective. Over the years I've occasionally tried to do just that, with mixed results. Accurately chronicling such a convoluted tale requires more than a tumbler of Bourbon and wishful thinking, I've found. It takes research - the kind of hard work I've yet to pony up. Instead, I pour over my notes, my timeline, my memory. Now however, I have the video.

Take DownCredit Dustin Miller, a old buddy of mine whom I really wish lived closer. His recently unearthed gift of a DVD contained more than stupid bloopers and silly haircuts. It featured the Rescue 911 episode CBS crafted around the footage we shot that day. As a result, I've gleaned facts I'd forgotten and dusted off visual impressions that had grown hazy over the years. While I'm still a l-o-n-g way from completion, brother Dustin's contribution has brought new life to my abandoned manuscript. Why I'm so entranced with this distant episode isn't so easy to explain. To the veteran detective it was your typical stand-off - one in which no one got killed and the gunman ended up in cuffs. However, to the young production dork I was that day, it was a highly cinematic kick-off to a passion play I'm still living. Any writer-wannabe worth half his adverbs would clamor at the chance to tell this tale.

Young Life, RuinedTrouble is, emotions get in the way. The young lady held hostage that morning is a friend of mine. We haven't chatted in years, but on that fateful day my heart stretched and nearly broke at the sight of her suffering - even if I was zooming in for the evening news at the time. As for the gunman David, I hold no real malice. He received a pretty stiff sentence for his stupidity that morning and no doubt regrets his actions more than anyone. I was merely a bystander, a peripheal player who did nothing more than press 'Record' and try to grasp the impossible scenes playing out in the camera's eye. I guess I should just let it go. But if I'm truly destined to document my adventures behind the lens, I can't forget it - for everything that followed still pales in comparison to the footage and feelings I gathered that fateful day.

To (eventually) be continued...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Minister of Ingress

Were I a hip-hop impresario, I’d call myself Channel X. I’d swagger on stage in baggy station logo-wear, spit mad tracks into a ridiculously crunked-up Bob Barker microphone, pour out my 40 ounce Sprite for each and every one my dead camera batteries, while a pasty-white overnight editor turned deejay scribbled furious beats out of early-80 news music. Why, it’s just the kind of groundbreaking performance that could launch a whole new career, bring me valuable endorsements and send my children into permanent hiding. For their sake, I’ll hold off on a rap career until they’re off in college. By then, I’ll be a middle aged white guy with a bigger paunch, fewer hairs and even less rhythm. I'll be DOPE!

Okay, my act needs a little work.. But spend three days smelling deep-fried twinkies and prize-winning pig-shit, and you too will grow a bit punchy. Besides, this Channel X persona is one I’ve cultivated for years. Lemme ‘splain: Despite my parents’ best intentions, my given-name is pretty unremarkable. ‘Stewart’ (and it’s many unfortunate permutations) conjures up visions of turtle-necked board-game nerds or homicidal cartoon babies. “Pittman’, while a fine and noble surname, doesn’t exactly scream ‘Remember me!’. Together, the four syllables sounds like the name of your average I.T. guy. Until I get it etched onto the spine of a white-hot hardback, those fourteen letters won’t throw open a lot of doors. Not like Channel X will.

Just ask your local receptionist. Whether she’s fronting for a car dealership or a congressman, she’ll usually drop whatever she’s not doing and patch me right through to the boss, once I penetrate her first line of office-defense.

“May I ask who’s calling?” comes the oft-repeated, icy refrain.

“Sure,” I say, “it’s Stewart…from Channel X.”

Now, I don’t actually say ‘Channel X’. Instead, I mutter the highly-marketed moniker of my current employer, a catchy combination of animal imagery and whole numbers. But whatever the household name and numeric, it has the same effect. Instant ingress. Why? Well, lots of reasons. One is the ubiquity of the brand. You see, Channel X floats across the living rooms of much of the state every few minutes or so. People fall asleep to it, wake up with it, half-ignore it when they're making lunch. Also, there’s the Trumped-Up Authority Factor. Like midnight rubberneckers at an inner-city drive-by, front office folk will promptly clear a path for my logo under the assumption that I belong there. Couple that with fear of being over/underexposed and a walloping dose of personal vanity and you have but a few reasons why I’m pretty much welcomed just about anywhere. How else could a grumpy schlub in a rumpled shirt garner instant and extended access to the movers, the shakers, the con-men and the debutants of an entire region?

It ain’t my rappin' skillz.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Berated by Carnies

Of my particular profession, the astute author of Chewie World Order once noted:
"On a good day, it must be like being a rock star. On bad days, it must be like being the tax collector."
So true. There are times when a camera on your shoulder is equal to an “S” on your chest, like the many times I’ve waded into a mob of American Idol wannabes only to have young and old genuflect toward my lens. Then there are the times the reception is a good deal icier - say, when you wanna tour Death Row. Luckily, you get used to it. After a while you view both reactions with a healthy dose of protective cynicism - at which point you’re well on your way to becoming a veteran photog. Today’s reaction, however caught even me off guard...

I was wandering around the midway of the Dixie Classic Fair around lunchtime, scanning the crowd for interesting visuals and recalling a most enjoyable book I read this summer, Eyeing the Flash. In it, former carnival con artist Peter Fenton recounts his lifetime as a sideshow barker and, with his irreverent wit and gift for dialogue, paints the local midway as a cesspool of scams and debauchery. It’s a great read - if only for Peter’s self-deprecating descent into complete huckster-ism. But I digress, as I often do. In fact, I’d mentally checked out altogether when a familiar cadence snapped me back to reality.

“That’s right any prize for any price. Just have land a disc on the ducks and you too will walk away a winner…”

The carny’s shtick was as wrinkled as his death-metal t-shirt, but I was entranced nonetheless. Something about the way his singsong delivery sounded coming through those tinny speakers held me enraptured, even if it did fail to ‘turn a tip'. An avowed recordist at heart, I fished a wireless lapel microphone out of a pocket and approached the ‘talker’, who at first seemed to welcome the attention. But as I drew closer and attempted to attach the tiny microphone to his shirt, the young man suddenly recoiled, scrunching his nose at my camera as if it smelled of elderberries. I, of course, didn’t relent. Years of staging spontaneous interviews have inured me to rejection; I can usually pin a wireless mic on a pickpocket before he has time to come up with a proper alibi. Some guy in a Slayer t-shirt and bad skin wasn’t about to give me the slip. Or so I thought.

“Naw man, I don’t want nothin’ to do with you.” he spat as he eyed the logo on my camera’s side. “Rupert Murdoch’s The Devil’.

With that, the young man turned on one combat-booted heel and retreated back into his sanctuary of plush yellow ducks. I remained frozen in space, hands outstretched, microphone in hand, slowly realizing I’d been politically rebuffed by a guy who didn’t have a permanent zip code or from the looks of it a working toothbrush - let alone a solid voting record. As I slunk off unceremoniously toward the livestock barn, I could still hear him mumbling obscenities my way. Halfway there, I remembered Chewie’s quote and began to laugh. This gig really can resemble that of a tax collector’s. Today wasn’t the first time someone mistook my station’s logo for that of the allegedly evil Fox News Channel. It probably wont be the last, either. Once, a student at Guilford College - wearing Birkenstocks, white-boy dreadlocks and pampered indignation - dressed me down for being a part of 'the world-swallowing cabal' that is FNC. I tried to tell him he had the wrong guy, but how do you discuss global broadcasting with a guy who, judging from his wardrobe and walking staff, is studying to be some kind of shepherd?

Too Legit to Quit

In a sure sign that the end is nigh, your humble lenslinger has been quoted in the American Journalism Review. Okay, so two months ago, I didn't know there was an American Journalism Review. Big deal, I figured it out when a lady by the name of Deborah Potter contacted me back in August. A former network correspondent herself, she wanted my thoughts for an article she was writing on the VJ Principle. Pretending as if high-minded institutions clamored for my opinion all the time, I agreed and we spoke by phone days later. I hope I didn't overwhelm her with my overwrought linguistic hyperbole, but she caught me after a couple of stout vats of the good bean. Besides, she was asking me about a sensitive subject: Should TV stations embrace the solo-newsgatherer model en masse? It's a question I got alot of answers to, and still don't know exactly how I feel. Thus I gave the lady an earful and promptly forgot about the interlude, until a week later when a 'fact checker' from AJR called me at the scene of an apartment fire to verify a few quotes. Funny thing, this journalism...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

High Atop Hanging Rock

Atop Hanging Rock
This post has nothing to do with TV news, other than the fact that I've schlepped heavy glass to this lofty spot on two separate occasions. Today's trek to Stokes County's summit was a pleasure trip, however. What else do you call a quick drive through rolling countryside followed by a languid hike led by your offspring? From the low-slung Window Falls to the quartzite apex of Hanging Rock, we scrambled up the ancient mountain range just so we could dig on the view. While we were there we met Mulligan, a Labradoodle of some distinction, whose owner gladly pointed out Moore's Knob to the bearded stranger and his panting children. Of course one does not drag a nine and twelve year old up a jumbled boulderfield without a bit of bribery. Thus, we did the only decent thing one can do after clambering up and down Hanging Rock. We made a beeline for The Hillbilly Hide-A-Way and gorged ourselves silly on high-octane country cookin'. Sa-LUTE!