Ah, the morning meeting - where the denizens of your local newsroom gather to decide what will appear on the news that night. It’s fast-paced, wide-ranging and without a doubt, my least favorite part of the day. Why? Oh, I dunno - that feeling of utter helplessness as some former intern pitches his opinion of how I should spend my day…that trapped-gas sensation in my lower abdomen as some producer eyeballs me while recounting the wino revival she passed on the way to work …the rising bile in the back of my throat as an indifferent manager banishes me to twelve hours in a far flung live truck with the flick of his well-oiled Sharpie. Yeah, most days I’d rather take a two-by-four to the face than watch my immediate fate ricochet around a small conference room.
Neither am I alone in this opinion. Four out of five station employees with double A’s in their pockets would choose six hours of painful constipation over twenty minutes of editorial orgy. Thus, many lensers avoid the morning meeting altogether, choosing instead to gather batteries, check b-roll or trade dick jokes while their perceived superiors wax all philosophic-like about viewer benefit, ‘big sticks’ and show flow. Though I’ve never counted myself among these stoic hold-outs, I’ve always kind of envied their Zen. After all, sauntering into the newsroom and accepting your assignment without rebuttal, rhetoric or retort is The Mark of a Pro, a sign you can handle anything the desk throws at you without letting it make you crazy. That’s bad-ass, but it ain’t me.
No, I usually slink into the morning editorial meeting before most photogs have even made it in to work. There I stand in the back of the room like a professional gambler deciding to which table to play. I don’t count cards, but I do examine the odds. Are there more photogs on the board than reporters? Are all the live trucks up and running? Are they still looking for some schlub to cover that licorice enema convention on the edge of town? Am I a good enough actor to feign explosive diarrhea should they want me to follow up on that disturbing discovery down at the landfill. Naah, I’d never fake a malady just to get out of a story, a live shot or unsavory partner for the day. I will however, blink Morse Code to the person manning the dry-erase board- in hopes they’ll gather from my facial tics how very much I’d like to avoid covering the hillbillies picketing outside the sauerkraut plant. If that’s wrong, don’t look for me to be right.
Now, were I smarter, more industrious and a little less addled, I’d swagger into each morning meeting with a list of air-worthy stories I’d already cleared for take-off. But frankly, I don’t start thinking about the upcoming news day until I throw my pick-up in Park and walk past the satellite dishes. Otherwise, I could hardly call myself a photog, now could I? It’s all I can do most days to scan the list of story ideas for something visual, then try to be in the right place when the managing editor tires of the chit-chat and starts hurling thunderbolts around the room. Thankfully, the show producers seem to value my reporter-free productions enough to lobby for me to work alone whenever possible - provided it doesn’t tear them away from their first bagel of the day too much. Of course if I'm lucky, I avoid the morning summit altogether. By the time the suits have laid out their battle plans, I’m already out somewhere, lining up my Sony’s sights and pulling the trigger.
Then again, there are too many times I wander out of my daydream and into a newsroom battle-zone unarmed, whereupon I quickly catch a mortar-shell of a story to the chest.
"Hey guy, load up in Live 13! We need you and Sue McNewbie out the door! We gotta play catch-up on that meth-lab massacre up in Orifice County!"
And they say you never hear it coming...