C'mon now, really. What OTHER job lets a man stick his nose into someone else's cinders - without first putting on turnout gear? What OTHER gig allows an individual with a shabby wardrobe and limited social skills be on first name basis with every mover and shaker in town? Name one OTHER occupation where a fellow can spend the morning socializing in a police evidence room and the afternoon making new undercover camera friends at an open-air drug market? I'm sure such a profession exists outside the Fourth Estate, but from where I sit here in the cheap seats, I really can't think of any. Still, I didn't log in to compare notes with dog catchers and the like. I came to riff on the access. Nearly twenty years in, it's the one part of The Job that still makes my needles jump.
See, I could give a rip about fighting City Hall. I'm not big on consumer advocacy either - as there are enough gasbags on both sides of that microphone to make me wonder who the true hack really is. Nor is the cameras that get me all juiced. Sure, I dig the science of documentation, but if I could do it with one of those skinny print reporter notebooks, I probably would. No, the thing that keeps me coming back to El Ocho (besides that whole 'must have sustenance' thing) is quite simply, The Access. No matter how many times I sidle up to some breaking calamity, I still get a kick out of my unobstructed view. It's not that I don't think I have a right to be there; I just keep expecting someone to insist I render assistance. My CPR's a wee rusty officer, but if snarky remarks and purple prose are what it's gonna take to revive that hobo, then You Sir, have volunteered the right photog...
Hmmm? No? That's cool. I was afraid to leave my gear alone anyway. Not that my cohorts would take anything. They might hide something - say a camera battery, a tripod, my finely-tuned sense of purpose... Whatever they might abscond with, know that they'd pay me back with an endless stream of lies and hyperbole. Understand, even if we TV news photogs haven't SEEN IT ALL, we kinda feel like it. Hey, YOU shovel tripe and tragedy into the gaping maw of local television for more years than you can remember; you'd polish your chops, too. So while I hang back with the chattering class, trading notes on the repuations we've so assiduously inflated, know there's no other place I'd rather be. Sure, some coffee shop would be awfully cozy right about now, but do they serve lifer's alibi along with their four dollar java?
I think not.