Friday, April 24, 2009

Pining for Myrtle

Myrtle mess
Scrum Envy: I’ve wrestled with it the better part of this week as screens all around me showed Myrtle Beach burning. It’s not that I mind sleeping in my bed, but that plume of smoke rising off the Grand Strand is a black, twisting beacon for schlubs like me… I don’t wanna hinder any heroes, mind you - but a little glass time around the edges would be good for the soul. Third Responder’s Curse, if you will. Nobody wants localized apocalypse, but if the shithouse is gonna go up in flames, I’d at least like to get the smell of it on me. Don’t ask me to explain why. It’s just … my newsmaker’s DNA, a deeply embedded code that gets my hackles up every time a sat truck gathering of a certain size forms in the Carolinas. Granted, I’m the guy who avoids local remotes like the plague. But I’ve raised that mast and watched traffic pass a thousand times… I’ve yet to see the neon jewel of Horry County scorched. Must I now do so through a curtain of pixels?

Apparently, YES.

Which I why I walked the dog three times this week while a lot of lenslingers caught the last train for the coast. One satellite encampment far from the action boasted a sizable fleet. Local, state and regional crews mingled with the network set amid endless live shots, bartering between broadcasts and trading favors; a loose-knit economy of charger squatting and restaurant directions, the Currency of the Camera-Yard Don’t know what I mean? Obviously, you’ve never knocked on the door of an out-of-state TV truck and tried to convince the strangers inside your bosses know each other...
“Hey, I know you’re booked on both paths with three crews of your own but we’re from THE Lower Upcountry’s Dedicated News Channel, a-a-a-n-d were wondering if we could squeeze in a look-live? No? Okay, I’ll be sitting over there in that day-glow station wagon if you change your mind… in the backseat, brushing my teeth with this rusty Leatherman…”
Okay, so it's not a love-in, but there is some haggling behind that continuing team smotherage. Especially in the current economic blight. Stations are spending less than ever to fill the same amount of newscasts, fewer bodies turning just as many stories. What has always been a bare-bones operation is often being operated by a skeleton crew. Just ask that guy, the zombie ’tog from three hours away who hasn’t slept in almost as many days. If you’d ever get him to stop talkin’ to that tree, he’d tell you a story about a last minute voyage with a fiery end, of thundering scrums and gas station bathrooms, of screaming shoulders and twittering witticisms. Then, he’d ask you for a cigarette, despite the fact neither of you smoke. Waterboarding my arse! Sleep deprivation, a viewfinder glued to your face and enough Red Bull to drop a longhorn should uncover any secrets our enemies have, let alone rattle the gourd of your above average photog…

Now that I think about it, I’m glad I stayed home.

(Thanks to NBCNewsCrew and Joey Flash for pictures and inspiration.)

No comments: