Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's Get Physical...

Perhaps it's my blue-collar upbringing, or maybe it's my learned disdain for academia - but a recent study really chaps my batteries. Actually, the study has some merit, for in elucidating the obvious it finds that the newfangled crew of one (read:VJ) is capable of only pre-planned, simplistic mews coverage. That is true, to a point. For example, I shoot, write and edit TV news stories sans assistance every day - by choice. Such an arrangement affords me the kinf of freedom and autonomy most photogs can only dream of. I like it - a lot. Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to voice my own reports again. Here's why I don't: The moment I go back on-air as a one-man-band, my bosses will throw me to the wolves, er, expect me to play full-on reporter.

No longer will I be able to waltz into the morning meeting and cherry-pick the the most visual story of the day. I'd be required to come up with lead stories, schmooze prickly contacts and cover city hall. Out with the biker club prayer breakfast. In with the heated city council meeting. No thanks, I've climbed the widow's porch solo as a younger man and while it's not beyond me, I simply garner no joy from standing by live outside the meth-lab. Sooo, I hide behind capable anchors with far smoother delivery than mine and foist actual happy news upon an unsuspecting public. It's a living...

And not a bad one, I might add. As practiced as I am in the art of whine, I truly dig what I do. Which is why I take such O-ffense at the study in question's other key assertion...
Another struggle for many VJs is the physical strain of working alone. “This is a craft that demands not only intellectual capacity but real physical stamina and a lot of people are not going to be able to do this simply because they haven‘t got the stamina,” one VJ says. ... The National Union of Journalists in England is starting to hear health complaints–such as exhaustion or back problems–from VJs who have been on the job a few years. There’s also the problem of doors. As mundane as they are, doors pose problems for VJs because their hands are nearly always full, and they have no partner. Getting through a door with the equipment, and protecting the equipment from being damaged by a slamming door, is a daily challenge. (One VJ reports a new appreciation for automatic doors!)
Don't get me wrong, humping gear up a courthouse's steps all by your lonesome CAN be a bitch. I do it every day. But photogs have been doing it daily since the first broadcast engineers traded a few horse blankets for an Indian-stitched test pattern. Try as I might, I cannot recall a single breathless study decrying the health risks suffered by generations of TV stevedores. And with good reason. See, even when the average news shooter schlepped 60 pounds of gear on his or her back, it just doesn't compare to actual backbreaking work like , say, appliance repair or ostrich farming. No matter how stridently I might disagree after a long shift of the one-eyed backpedal, electronic news-gathering is not the long haul some would have you believe.

Rather, it's a brisk run through someone else's reality - often followed by a stop at Starbucks for a Java Chip Frappuccino and a little handheld wi-fi. To compare carrying a fetus-cam around for an hour or two a day to actual labor does a great disservice to working folks everywhere and I want to do everything I can to distance myself from such self-serving horseshit. Am I being too sensitive? Probably, but when journalists of any stripe start complaining about their jobs being too physically strenuous, I'm more than a little sickened. Can field crews have a rough go of it once in awhile? Youbetcha. But can a lusty ingenue toting an eight pound camera compare to the many travails of a factory worker or traffic cop? Not on her worst day.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a shelf full of self-serving trophies not to polish. I gotta tell you though: my back is killing me!

7 comments:

Amanda said...

Tracy McHairdoo, even though the baked potato cams ergonomically suck hand-held (I predict a rise in tennis elbows thanks to them), cry me a river. Go work retail, unload a truck and haul 2 tons of freight onto the sales floor and onto the shelves before the sun rises before you bitch about a teeny-tiny little camera. Between throwing bags of dog food all night long and my 25lb Sony, I'll take the Sony any day.

Though I'm still waiting for Rosenblum to give his input over this study...namely the part where the study author admits that newsrooms work better when there is a mix of traditional crews and one man bands instead of 100% VJ.

30frames said...

I hardly consider carrying a babycam around "hard work".
Most of the complaints listed in that article are pathetic and just day to day issues that don't make a job harder.

turdpolisher said...

A freshly-minted VJ complaining about the physical strain of shooting news is like Kathy Lee Gifford complaining about the sweat shops she uses to make Walmart clothes. Where was all that concern when real photogs toted real gear?

But one thing the article got right -- the type of stories that lend themselves to the VJ model. Before I turned part-time OMB, the boss and I had a long talk about what the job was not. It ain't about running down bad guys, investigating corruption, sitting in a courtroom, hanging in city hall, or chatting up a serial killer. Sure, I've made it out of the B Block a time or three, but more often than not, the stuff I do solo closes out the show and is the most memorable story of the day.

Important? Nah, but it's an assload more fun than backpeadling through a revolving door, and no hair dos.

Lenslinger said...

"Sure, I've made it out of the B Block a time or three, but more often than not, the stuff I do solo closes out the show and is the most memorable story of the day."

That's the way it works here. For now.

Oreo said...

Finally we have in print what most photogs have been saying for the last 5 years or more. VJs are great for lighter stories, but when it comes to breaking news, nothing beats a mulit-person crew for coverage. Two people are also more efficient than one when trying to gather info and pics, but I'm sure that I'm preaching to the choir.

I do agree with you about the workload. How many times have photogs been asked to go shoot that meeting or other event for a pkg. Now some of those people doing the asking are finding out just what it means to lug a mobile newsroom through the crowds and doors of the city.

Scanner Dazed said...

A very good News Director once told me...part of the word "reporter" is the word "porter", make em carry something! Well....we have met the enemy and he is us!

Bill said...

"fetus cam" I love it! ;-)

You guys have said it all, I can't really add much, but maybe these whiners should be handed an Ikegami and a 3/4" deck and have to chase some goon rat around a courthouse while they are trying to find a door to escape the view of your lens.