Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Far be it from me to objectify my former colleague Wayne Covil, but the longer I stare at this antiquated frame grab, the more I marvel. It's from a WNCT-TV promo, circa 1990. Wayne wasn't the star of the spot, but rather a reporter hard at work as a Creative Services lens swept through the newsroom. What that camera captured was worthy of engraving; visual proof of a period when the only computer in the newsroom was a cheap digital watch or a calculator that couldn't crack Algebra. Am I reading too much into it? Sure, but I became a (news) man in that room and seeing one of my mentors frozen there forever reminds me of a kinder, gentler era. Allow me to break it down by the numbers...
1) What can you say about wood paneling? Not much other than it was that thin simulated wood grain crap that would still give you splinters if you rubbed up against it wrong. Mostly, we hung Associated Press awards on that wall - the official imprimatur of any Roy Hardee-led newsroom. Imagine our alarm on the weekends when someone would slam the back door and all that gilded praise would clatter to the floor in a clump of scratched plaque compunction. I didn't do it!
2) That's no broom closet - that's an edit bay! But don't look for any glistening new Mac or tricked out PC's - they're not there! Instead, you'll find a couple of player/record decks from the Carter administration, all tied together by a control panel that's missing a few buttons but sporting several condiment splotches. It's difficult to explain to today's non-linear editors, but making news on these machines was always a thrill, like flying a biplane to the Moon.
3) Were I the technical type, I could recite the very model number of this orange Ikegami. I can't. What i can tell you is that it was all sharp edges and stiff toggle switches. The faded viewfinder screen looked like a Monet painting in progress and you didn't point it at a light unless you wanted a big ugly smear in your shot. Still, it was this exact breed of beast that first rode on my shoulder, lit up my id and bolstered my soul. Just don't ask what it did to my back!
4) This one's complicated, so I'll go slow: It's a file cabinet (fahyl kab-uh-nit), a squat metallic structure designed to house sheaves of lumber in an orderly manner. Think of it as an external hard drive for the pre-PC generation. It operates much the same - except the only search button is the callous on your thumb formed by a thousand paper cuts. Also, the metal file cabinet made a most distinctive sound when kicked by an anchor in mid-tantrum. Trust me on that.
5) Look closely. That's no hollow set prop, but a functioning desktop telephone of the original touch-tone variety. Oh, they're still around, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one with so few features. Transferring a call? Not without getting up, you're not. Park and Page? What the hell are you talking about? Here's one thing those old phones were good for: Intern defense! Tie two handsets together and you have a pair of homemade nun-chucks custom made for getting that kid with the clip-on tie outta your chair. H-o-u-r-s of fun!
6) Who knew the electric typewriter would go the way of the wagon wheel? Not me! No, when I staggered into the sea of Channel Nine technology, ye olde typewriter was the only instrument I felt good about playing. These days of course they're considered useless relics, but with nary a button on board that would conjure up Facebook, Twitter or Porn, reporters using them finished their scripts a whole lot faster. Unless of course there were corrections to be made. Wait 'til you wrap your head around White-Out...
7) And then there was the correspondent in question. Even back then, Wayne Covil was a master of multi-tasking: shooting, writing, editing and fronting his reports. Not only that, but Wayne acted as an ambassador of sorts, charming the secrets out of street people an patricians alike. Yes, back when the term 'VJ' meant Martha Quinn, Wayne Covil was (and remains) one helluva One Man Band. Today's generation of distracted babblers could learn a lot from such a laser-focused Luddite. As for those glasses...