Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? It’s more than the coda of an endlessly overrated punk rock band; it’s the mind frame of many a broadcaster these days. Those of you in the business know what I mean. Those of you who aren’t can still play along at home. Mind you, I’m not asking for pity. ’The Media’ - that faceless entity blamed for everything from global warming to Sarah Palin’s shortcomings is not the kind of thing people easily feel sorry for. I get that. But, then again, I’m not talking about the pompous cable news screeching heads with the chauffer and sense of entitlement. No, I’m speaking of the hard-working men and women whose skills and nature make up the very underbelly of the nightly news-beast. Photographers, editors, associate producers; the folks who bust their collective humps not for treasure or glory, but for a humble stipend and a chance at an interesting career. For years on end, it was possible to pay (most of) the bills by mastering a single craft and learning to live without the credit you so richly deserved. Even that now, seems to be coming to an end.
Lay-offs, buyouts, unpaid furloughs. 2009 is barely two weeks old and already the business of TV news feels like it’s in freefall. Pundits far more prescient than I have predicted this for years, mostly due to the extrapolation of a dozen newfangled gadgets. Magic laptops and diminutive lenses were the opening salvo, but the keelhauling economy is what’s about to sink this ship. Sure, there will always be television and newscasts aren’t soon to shake their mortal coil. But the methodology behind them is already splintering, because the technology makes it possible, because the lack of money makes it a must. Still, knowing this seismic shift was coming makes it no simpler to stay on your feet. Neither does it make it any easier to watch good people hurt. I have many blogger friends who rue the day ’corporate media’ gained power. They’re often the same ones who hang on their local newscasts’ every breathless syllable - if only to gleefully disparage the messengers. Hope those folk get as much pleasure from watching old Mork and Mindy re-runs…
When I first began slinging lenses in the fall of ’89, I knew I would witness breathtaking upheavals. I had no idea they’d take place within the hallowed halls of broadcasting. No, this ain’t the process. In fact, a job at a TV station ranks somewhere between computer repair and a really good milk route. Unless it’s your face on the billboard, it’s pretty damn thankless. Now however, the crazy pace, oddball hours and total lack of gratitude looks downright fetching. People who have made bellyachin’ about their jobs into performance art are simply grateful for the latest paycheck. Oh, how the surly have fallen. That includes me, of course; I can bitch with the best of them. But what used to set me off now just fills me with dread, for all bets are officially off. Luckily, I’m pretty versatile. If logic should prevail, I’ll be fine. That’s what worries me the most - especially when I see people more talented than I accepting less between gritted teeth. Simply put, dark clouds on every outlet's horizon. Those dire conditions may not last forever, but I'm beginning to wonder who’ll still be standing when - and if - this perfect storm passes.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shelter to erect.