Sunday, August 03, 2008

Scoffing at the Apocalypse

DSCF0472Alien craft are hanging over the broadcast landscape, ancient plates are shifting beneath the Fourth Estate, high-priced wisemen are lunging for each other's throats and I feel perfectly calm. It's not that the distant rumblings don't give me pause; they do. But as a member of the invisible class, I feel less imperiled by the great media upheaval already in play. That's not that photogs will have a free ride. Like everyone else in this (soon to be) hemorrhaging industry, we'll soon be asked to do more, to work outside our areas of expertise with gear you once deemed unworthy of your very touch. Don't like it? Go sell effing shoes. The newest of the suits are counting on many of you to do just that, especially the ones pulling down better bank than the college kid they're about to pay in backslaps and blog credits. Think it can't happen? Ask the dude with the frat pin on his cable station's camcorder. The one blocking your shot.

Yes, as hard to believe as it is, this business is about to get even more cut-throat. That's hard to grasp in an industry where we eat our young faster than soccer players stranded in the Andes, but it's true. Caffeinated show stackers will be expected to edit their own video, prom queen reporters will be handed consumer-cams to go along with their 8 by 10 glossies and somnambulant news shooters will be required not only to stay awake at press conferences, but to ask questions, scarf an agenda and pop off a still shot or two for the web. Of course many in the trenches will refuse to develop any such new skills and delicious attrition will ensue. Darkness will fall over many a TV geek's dream as a line of work once considered competitive enters whole new realms of ruthlessness. Throw in scores of bug-eyed refugees from the Great Newspaper Masssacre and you have one very crowded, fractured field of play. Still wanna make TV? So does the lifestyles editor with the Sony of his owny.

So why on Earth would I be reaching new levels of Lenslinger Zen when my very universe is in such a state of flux? Simple. I got mercenary skills. Unlilke many of my colleagues, I never developed a specialty - other than making deadline by any means necessary. Whereas most photogs and reporters team up with another for constant collaboration, I've often chosen to go it alone. I've done so to challenge myself, to avoid live truck clusters and because Roy Hardee taught me that Write-Shoot-Edit could be a way of life. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing, though the solo route has rarely been an easy road. Turning stories unencumbered by another has always earned me respect from producers, derision from reporters and death-defying expectations from the assignment editors in my life. That's cool by me; glory was never my strong suit. Hopefully I can retain whatever decorum I have in the coming reconstruction, for staggering new platforms are shooting skyward every day and raining down debris on a herd of overly padded news-gatherers.

Race ya to safety...


newmediajim said...

This one belongs in "Lenslinger Classics"! Stewart, you and I will get through this mess one way or another methinks. Keep on keepin' on!

Rebecca said...

Management was pushing this 10+ years ago at the shop I worked at in SF. They handed out consumer cameras to the reporters. Then the Union stepped in. Those cameras went home to film kids birthdays, etc.
But I agree with you totally, you have to embrace all parts of creating media in order to 'hang' in there.
To succeed, well, that's another post... !

Casey Rollins said...

Yea, verily there shall be much wailing and gnashing of teeth; the geek shall be made strong, and the mighty shall eat scorpion sandwiches.