There was a time TV News Photogs spent every second of a breaking scene buried in the cup: inspecting crevices and scanning canyons for shots the other guys ain't got. These days, we stand around and fiddle with our phones. It's especially vexing to a gentleman of my vintage. The first cellular device I had was the length of a lava lamp; it came encased in a black (p)leather shoebox with a quick-snap lid in case you wanted to ring up Marty McFly in a hurry. Back then, whenever I bailed out of the capsule over a raging breaker, the horn stayed in the floorboard. Back to the future however, the lowly phone has achieved a magical status: a palm sized portal that's holding the globe's attention - one distracted driver at a time. Which is why it's not unusual to see a flock of photogs standing by the highway, surrounded by thousands of dollars of highly sensitive recording equipment, yet jabbing at a handful of plastic.
It happened again just yesterday when a cop car party broke out around a broken ultra-light; an underpowered parachute thingie with more style than lift. Two men tried to steer it skyward, but it only got so high before suddenly plummeting. The pair escaped serious injury, but in their ambulance's wake microbes formed, surly parasites wearing long-winded stares and cargo shorts. I was among that scrum and while the PO-leece stopped us short of encroaching upon the lack of wreckage, we three did our best to stretch the view. These days that includes pleasing whatever web editor has your digits, for the only way he's gonna bet the other station's web staff to the virtual punch is to post whatever gossip and flotsam they can harvest from those folks in the field. That's where I come in, squinting intently at a loaner phone as my competitors scrunched their own brows in solidarity.
Actually, the others guys filed their photos, such that they were, with little to no headache. I however fat-fingered the alien icons in a vain attempt to find the camera-phone's zoom control. I never did, but in further molesting the touch-screen I managed to 1.) order a cheese pizza, 2.) vote for that Goth Kid on last year's American Idol and 3.) totally chafe the house-cats, who couldn't fathom why their windiest lenslinger couldn't come up with a closer shot. They're right: Google Earth provided better coverage, but until you can train a satellite how to bluff his way past a volunteer firefighter, I'm not worried about being replace by Sputnik. Besides, it takes more than plugged-in chutzpah to earn your keep in this not so brave new world and he moment I think of them, I'll send it over in a shiny new text message. Meanwhile, has anyone seen my Box-Phone? Faces are fading on the Polaroid in my pocket and I gotta make a call...
As soon as I find a quarter.