Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vaudeville In a Box

Shrinking lenses, magic laptops, on-line video - it’s an exciting time to be in television news ... then why the hell am I so bored? Wait! Don’t answer that. Just sit back and read and we’ll both get through this. See, I’m on the cusp of my Late Summer Malaise and the only recommended treatment is to pound out my every frustrations on this coffee-stained keyboard. According to my wife, it’s nothing new. Every time July turns to August I get waylaid by the crushing heat, the thankless grind and all those vacationing newsmakers. Soon I find myself skulking about the newsroom fully disengaged, cloaked in melancholy, utterly apathetic to anything outside the white-hot focus of my daily assignment. Yes Sir, I’m a real ray of sunshine this time of year.

Okay, so maybe it ain't all the weather’s fault. Rain or shine, I been over my chosen profession for a good five years or so now. Chalk it up to arrested development: a prolonged sense of career stagnation brought on by the feeling your best TV news stories are somewhere far behind you. For what it’s worth, I know that’s not the case, but its awful easy to feel that way when you’re babysitting hair-do’s at The Felony Factory. I’d much rather be off by myself in Unit 4 somewhere, erecting vignettes no one deems very important (not counting of course the newscast producer, who counts on me to fill ninety seconds of real estate each night). It’s on those solo forays only that I find redemption. For better or worse, I do my best work all by my lonesome, a condition I blame squarely on my very first news director Roy Hardee - who more than encouraged my loner tendencies.

Still, it’s tough being an unaccompanied auteur in a newsroom full of team players. See, most of the fine folk I toil alongside thrive on collaboration. Reporters and photogs plot their next masterpiece with unparalleled zeal, one focused on merging words while the other riffs on the visuals. It’s a great way to commit quality television but it so ain’t me. Having cut my teeth as a one-man-band who specialized in crime and grime or outright fluff, I got certain ideas about video architecture and rarely do they involve cloying two-shots or extended stand-ups. That particular shtick is all well and good I suppose, but its team coverage I’d rather view than produce. Having sad that, I must admit my co-workers regularly put their heads together to make for some very interesting Tee-Vee. Too bad I have such a hard time making myself watch any of it.

Reading back over those three paragraphs, I realize how disgruntled I must sound. I’m really not. What I am is a realist, a cynic too perhaps: a kind of reporter but mostly a photog. And therein lies the rub. Nowhere near as enterprising as our accomplished reporting staff, and not nearly as technical as our illustrious photogs, I am, if anything, justly underrated. That’s only just I suppose, payback for playing dumb camera punk whenever some toothless rube approached me with a passel of stupid questions. (‘Couldn’t tell ya man, I just drive the truck.’) Not that photogs are dumb. Far from it. But the public’s misconception that we’re merely caddies to the semi-famous makes it awful easy to go all Caveman. Sorry ‘bout that, Geico.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we? But before we go, what have we learned? Oh yes, August in the Carolinas is so muggy, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger fantasizes about life as a bank teller. I, Stewart Pittman, prefer to work alone (with nobody else!), a tactic that’s left me miscast me among my fellow broadcasters. I watch little to no local news, not counting the stuff I see in various edit bays. No longer a real enthusiast of the form, I now view my workaday life as fodder for an ambitious set of never to be completed memoirs. Resigned to the fact I may very well have peaked professionally , I still think I can out-news-gather you with one eyelid tied behind my back. I merely reserve the right to whine about it on-line when I'm done...

There - I feel better already!


Oreo said...

Ahhh, the August doldrums of the true veteran. Every now and then you just need to bitch a little. It helps ease the discomfort caused by swamp-ass.

I too have tended to play dumb, but then bristle when someone asks to speak to one of the "real journalists."

Weaver said...

I get the summer funk every year. It's almost a depression. First there's the anticipation of a vacation. It's hard to concentrate on work when you are counting the days 'til you hit the beach. Then the vacations over and you have to come back to work. Ugh! That stings.

The solution for me, every year, is to find a story that makes me happy. A kick ass, upbeat, balls to the wall, remote grabber.

I'm all good after that!

turdpolisher said...

I swear we must be related. Summer in the news biz can suck the live out of you. I find beer, and lots of it, cures the summertime dolldrums best.

And anytime you wanna whine about it, I'm all ears. Your whinning is much more poetic than mine.

sapphoto said...

It must be that time of year b/c your riff sounds like it would explain all the looks of those around my newsroom.

Including this sully photog turned air traffic controller.

I've hit the year mark on the desk. And I find that it's such a struggle just trying to figure out how to get the multitude of newscasts filled without killing my crews while making the ND happy. It takes everything just to get the lead stories shot. Thank goodness the breaking news has been in short supply and my crews have been forgiving.

I thought I'd miss the shooting...I do, but I miss being able to assign my people to stories besides those that occupy the first 2 minutes of a newscast.

Well that feels a little better. The griping might just be a little cathartic...thanks!

Anonymous said...

It might be time for some morning relaxtion, just you and your bike, before the days heat.