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.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

AC!!!! Good old Andy. It's a perfect Andy response too.

Look, I'm all for expanding your skill set, but let's be frank. This has nothing to do with bettering the news. This is about money. It's cheaper, you can grind out more news with less people, and instead of paying lots of money to buy the syndicated show wheel of fortune or Jerry Springer, HEY! we have more people shooting more stuff, so let's just slap up another half hour of news! I never shot. And I'm glad I never did, because I know I would have sucked at it. And the suits can say anything they want, quality MATTERS. You can make the pitch for "cinema verite" all you want - it's just polishing turds. Good pix make or break a newscast, and so does good writing. In another industry, it might not matter as much if the quality dropped a bit, but we are talking about news here, and when the quality drops, that means errors get made, wrong facts are broadcast, and you cheapen the entire purpose of the fourth estate, which is NOT, listen up all you GM's, to exclusively make money. Unfortunately, that's all it's about anymore. This is a well intentioned debate, but it's pointless. Money always wins. Does anybody remember the children's book the Wump World? The peaceful, happy wumps lived on a beautiful planet, this band of greedy aliens landed on it one day, completely trashed the planet, and moved on. Welcome to Wump World.