Friday, May 09, 2008

The Splintered and the Giddy

Tree Down Theater
I’d love to share a cinematic tale of chasing tornadoes with you, but my involvement with our ‘round the clock smotherage was tepid at best. Sure there was that sudden commute just after the storm, but once you’ve driven between midnight tempests, what’s to tell? Not much, other than to say the underwater sojourn down Horsepen Creek Road was a thrill ride worthy of its own commercial. Speaking of which, lightning, sideways rain and an old Stone Temple Pilots CD made for the kind of behind the wheel euphoria Madison Avenue tries so hard to replicate in their slow motion pick-up truck spots. Halfway to work the dirty weather stopped and I found myself pumping my fists for no particular reason. From there it was all downhill, since while I was playing air guitar, other photogs were well ahead of me - jumping in live trucks, following scanner clues and establishing outposts along the freshest edge of devastation.

One of those electronic responders was Weaver, of course. Always one to race headlong into happenstance, dude was one of the firsts to shine a light on fallen treetops and flipped-over semis. To award his punctuality, the producers took his shot all night long - even as the suits sent me back home. When I returned seven hours later, Weaver was speaking only in broken syllables - having broadcast live(!) all throughout the night and well into the morning, He’d even stepped in front of the lens himself for a spell when the News Gods demanded an update and not a single talking hair-do could be found. While not the easiest thing in the world to pull off, the solo live shot offers its own kind of reward, mainly the quiet knowledge that you can do it all - should circumstances demand it. I’ve only done it a time or two myself, but for some odd reason I hold those lonely stretches on snow-covered overpasses in special regard.

All of which got me thinking. First, the broadcast news industry is sure lucky to have people on staff who will hurl themselves into the void with little thought of their own safety or convenience. Why exactly we insist on doing so ain’t exactly clear -- but one truth is indisputable. It ain’t the money. I’ll keep my pay-stubs to myself, but believe me when I say there are a myriad of ways to render more tender and none of them involve erecting antennas in electrical storms. Secondly, weather just may be the one thing that saves local TV news. Bloated though they may be, the weather segment is often the highest rated parsec of the evening news. Throw in an extreme event like last night’s tornado and you may have perhaps the one public service TV News does best. Can newspaper video ever compete? Only if their bosses equip them with the kind of gear they’ll need to supply a torrent of details to a viewing populace all too used to being spoon-fed

Even then I doubt they can hang, but it will still beat the current delivery platform. See, there’s a sun-baked parchment at the end of my driveway and no matter how many times I back over it in my news car, it still says Thursday night was kinda quiet. That’s gotta hurt.

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