When I first started humping lenses for a living, I figured I’d missed the revolution. After all, it was 1989. Videotape had long since replaced film as the medium of choice and even my sleepy little affiliate was cuttin’ checks for flashy new betacams. Ever so lovingly I’d place that Sony in the back of my white Ford Bronco, finger the squawk button on the oblong pager hanging off my hip and wonder if newsgathering could get any more futuristic. Convinced it simply couldn’t, I’d climb behind the wheel of that shiny logo mobile, pop in a Whitesnake cassette and drive off feeling like a freakin’ astronaut. Eighteen years later, I look back with no small amount of shame at the acid-washed jeans, the thoroughly shitty music and my naive assumption that broadcasting technology had truly peaked.
Had you told me back then that every computer on the planet would be one day be connected, that teenagers with laptops could out perform my station’s control room, that newspaper folk would consider themselves master of the moving image, I’d have probably asked for an introduction to your dealer. No, back in the waning days of the 1980’s, I was simply incapable of grasping the ramifications of the looming techno-renaissance. Besides, I was busy. Consumed with mastering my craft, I set aside any real critical thinking for an extended lesson in street-level data-gathering. Eschewing any and all owner’s manuals, I learned just enough to be fairly dangerous with my fancycam. Like my entire generation of TV news shooters, I was soon editing tape-to-tape by feel, driving live trucks past police barricades and swaggering about the place like I was some kind of one-eyed Jedi.
But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a hologram. Technology caught up. Suddenly college kids could crank out kinescopes on their iMacs, cell phones started sprouting eyes and clunky concepts like the information superhighway gave way to the far sleeker Blogspot-Google-YouTube paradigm. Virtually overnight my breed became dinosaurs. Velociraptors in matching logowear perhaps, but dinosaurs nonetheless. Trouble is, we’re not stumbling off to die. In my medium market alone, there are scads of multitasking action figures, many who can shoot, plot and edit better than I. Past evolution aside, it’s a treacherous landscape for my beleaguered species. Never at the top of the broadcast food-chain, we now stand a good chance of being replaced by bad actors with a fetish for emerging gadgetry. That, I suppose, is the way of things - but I can’t help but wonder what the next generation of news shooters will look like and wether or not a fossilized photog like myself will still be allowed to roam the Earth.
At least there will be no hair metal at the tar pits...