My return to news, a decade ago this week, was less than spectacular. Arriving at my new station the very same day as a much ballyhooed reporter, most people thought I was his driver as we glad-handed our way around the newsroom. That was fine by me, as I was seeking refuge, not renown. See, the preceding couple of years had been the toughest of my far from illustrious career. Whatever capital and confidence I’d acquired on the mean streets of Eastern Carolina’s news beat, I’d frittered away in an aborted attempt as Promotions Director for a cesspool of a station. ‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ I told myself, but I knew I was damaged goods. Two years away from the electronic grind had left me soft and weak; I was much more accustomed to placating junior executives than humping gear up some tragedy’s shore. No, the new shooter that entered El Ocho that day was rusty and untrusting but more than happy to hide in the shadow of the dude with the poofy hair - even if I did, do and still consider him a blowhard of biblical proportions.
But as stoked as I was to have escaped the Madman of Chocowinity, I was leery of what I’d come to think of as ‘lenslinging’. Twenty four months of middle management misery had not rendered me amnesic after all. I still remembered well the rigors of a hefting glass, how success at TV photojournalism is measured in back light and sound pops, because security, riches and respect were steeply out of reach. No, I had zero illusions about shooting news. It could be tough, uncomfortable, even numbing. Worse yet, the job was impossible to shake if stuck with too long. But no longer enamored with appearing on-camera and stir-crazy from two of in-studio stir, I turned to the one newsgathering gig I knew I could do. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit wincing a time or ten when I geared up under yet another new logo, for I knew was awaiting me: Structure fires, Incumbent liars, funeral pyres. God, how I'd missed it.
That of course was ten years ago. In that time, I've streamlined my skillset, tricked-out my rig and pulled a million u-turns in the name of news. It's not all been pretty, but more times than not I go home happy, knowing I left every bit of my ability on the screen. I no longer watch TV news at home, I don't chase show-biz trophies and I couldn't give two shits whose Double Doppler makes the earthworms glow. I only want to tell small stories - all by lonesome if that's okay. Strap soem other shooter to the speeding squad car, I'll be in the daisy patch with my wide-angle, or in today's case, profiling a retiree as he raged against those who littered his lawn. Those stories will never lead the A-block, but they'll be the only thing you remember about the newscast a week down the road. If that makes me the Rodeo Clown of local news, Yippie-Kiya, Mutha ----
On second thought, let's keep this clean. It's a celebration after all, for without the last ten years of shoving life through a tube and the psychosis it induces, I might never have been moved to finally start writing. Sure, I could have penned epistles on marketing and such, but how would that have compared to tales of unplanned calamity, storebought rapture and panting cadaver dogs. I know good fodder when I sees it and I seize it everyday. Why else would I keep at a job better suited for true A/V geeks, not some poser like myself who'd rather write a thousand words on the magic of shadows than rig up a single key-light. Do I want to be chasing groundbreakings, high-speed chases and slow food festivals at age 50? A thousand times no. But until I find a way to make a living off my tiniest of readerships , I'll still be shouldering-up and rolling twice every fortnight...
All you gotta do is suffer countless thwarted attempts of my autobiography. Sorry 'bout that.