Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lucky or Tough

Al'lavee Miller is either lucky or tough. Either way, we're glad to hear the KSHB-TV news photog is now resting at home, a mere forty-eight hours after bouncing off the windshield of a moving car. He and his reporter were covering a gas line break in Olathe, Kansas when a car struck him from behind. Judging from the video, Al never saw it coming. Reporter Russ Ptacek did. He was a hundred feet away in the KSHB live truck when the car blindsided his partner and in a well-produced (if not overly breathless) account, describes watching his photog go airborne. Despite that short flight, Al Miller didn't break a single bone. He did break the windshield, dent the hood and lose consciousness for a short time. Emergency room physicians treated him briefly before releasing the undoubtedly sore shooter to the care of his family. Here's hoping he's more comfortable there than on some semi-attended gurney in the ER.

In romanticizing TV news photography (as I often do), one can go on and on about the perils of inner-city crime scenes or the outer bands of an approaching hurricane. But the biggest danger to those of us in the field is far more pedestrian. With the grinding pace of the modern news cycle and its endless demand for live remotes, the average photog clings to breakdown lanes and crumbling road shoulders with disturbing casualness. While there's no evidence that Al Miller was being careless, I know that I for one have not always paid attention when I should have. Then again, it's difficult to maintain situational awareness when tunnel vision is your stock in trade. Don't know what I mean? Press your right eye up to a fancycam's viewfinder, twist something interesting into focus and, oh yeah, watch your back!

It ain't easy, but it's imperative we news crews practice safety and accost those who don't. Otherwise, who else will? As proven time and time and time again, we cannot trust the desk to look out for our well-being. Not when everyone in the newsroom is worried the competition wil get the sexier shot of that five car pile-up. I'm not laying blame back at the shop, but any TV news photog who places his or her safety in the hands of management hasn't been doing this very long and risks not doing it for as long as they may want. Just this week, a WNEP crew went live(!) beside an outside curve in Scranton, PA. Their message: Roads are icy, be careful! The resulting remote was so dangerous looking, viewers berated the crew on the station website. Hey, here's a clue: If the viewers are worried about your safety, you're doing something stupid. So let's review. There is NO TV news story worth your life. The greatet peril comes cloaked in inattention and that putz with the gel in the hair back at the station ain't gonna save yer ass.

That's YOUR job.


Chris said...

Soon, safety won't be optional. I can just hear the whining from the reporters.

All of our trucks have safety vests and traffic cones. Think like the road crews, put the biggest heaviest vehicle (the live truck) behind you to create a buffer zone.

Duff said...

I hate seeing stories like that, glad to hear he's doing well. Shooting from the side of the freeway is by far my least favorite thing to do, because people are idiots, especially when they're behind the wheel.

mangler said...

glad he's doing well but you're forgetting a major element to this situation! how's the cam?!?!?!?!