Sunday, December 31, 2006

Every Soul a Stringer

I guess its no surprise that Saddam’s snuff film ricocheted across the web before the former dictator’s remains were ever stuffed in a box. It would only have been alarming had someone not thrust a cell phone forward and hit RECORD’, not uploaded it to the globe via YouTube, instantly enabling heretic and housewife alike to witness Hussein’s short drop into the past-tense. No, most weekend newscast producers were counting on the footage to lead their shows before ever the deposed overlord was ever served his last incarcerated meal - and not because they’d stationed news crews underneath the gallows. Who has to?-when all the world’s your stringer. ‘Stringer‘, you say?
That squirrelly dude talking to the cop, the one with the camcorder and the home-made logos. His name’s Gordo and he’s got more scanners than you. He’ll beat you to a lot of scenes ‘cause he sleeps in his car. He’s also a preacher. Don’t ask...”
Hmm? Sorry - just flashing back to the day I first learned the term. At the dawn of the 90’s, ‘Stringer’ meant freelance journalist (though ‘ambulance chasing drifter’ could sometimes apply), one who responds to breaking news, shoots home video and peddles it to local TV stations for all the cash and glory that be squeezed from two minutes of shaky, strobe-lit carnage. I’m being too harsh, though. Fact is, more than a few freelance cameras have prevented producers from calling me at four a.m. ‘cause the freight train ran into the mental hospital’. For that I’d like to thank each and every one of them. Just give me the number to that Waffle House by the interstate and I’ll get started.

But I digress. What I really came to fathom at was the speed at which news travels these days - and the footage of Saddam-a-swingin’ was news. Just ask the millions of people with broadband in their dens - the same folk who own a cell phone and a Tivo or two. They are the new ‘stringers’ - a citizenry bristling with newsgathering tools, a global populace smitten with those blinking gadgets on their hips. As these incredible tools (the machines, not the people) shrink and extrapolate, expect more of the same. Whenever a plane plummets, a governor gropes or a dictator swings - increasingly clear phone-footage will emerge, long before the talking heads finish putting on the pancake. Where that leaves an over-seasoned cameraman is still out of frame, but I can‘t help but feel like the photog’s role is diminished a bit. After all, what good is a fancy-cam and a sense of entitlement when Joe Dirt’s packin’ a tricorder? I should’ve gone into waterbed sales. Those guys still got a corner on their market...


in-gun-ear said...

You realize you ARE talking about your good friend California Adam! He too started with too many scanners and fire to "be". ;)

Oreo said...

I know it's a phone, but couldn't they shoot it a little less shaky? ;)