Tuesday, March 01, 2011

An Open Letter to Lazy Reporters

Roadside View 2The world is full of talented TV News reporters. I’m lucky enough to work with some of them. But there’s a trend afoot I find most disturbing and it’s ushering in the age of the VJ. I’m talking about laziness, plain and simple. It’s not a trait most people would attribute to such a high profile profession but it’s one that runs rampant in many modern day correspondents. Voicing this of course will win me no friends. That’s okay, I got enough friends. What I’m running low on is patience, patience for people who’s only goal is to accomplish as little as possible while looking good doing it. But before I go any further, let’s synchronize our watches:

Oh look, it’s 2011! Across the broadcast universe, stations are slashing their staffs in half. Producers are cutting footage, photographers are learning to write and reporters are being handed cameras the size of baked potatoes and told to go make TV. If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a photographer to do the dirty work, Congratulations. Chances are that won’t always be the case and too many of you have brought it on yourselves. If, however, you’re a hard-working, enterprising reporter, you’ll probably always enjoy some form of technical support. Feel free to skip to the end. The rest of you...

You might not believe this but there was a time a reporter got OUT of the car while the photographer shot video. Not every time, but sometimes. Crazy shit happens when you do: people speak, birds chirp, news ensues.You’d be amazed what passes for life outside your makeup bag, or Blackberry or whatever it is that so glues you to that shotgun seat.

Say you’ve made a few phone calls, but can’t stir up any news. What do you do? If you said ‘sit at my desk and do my hair while the producers find me a story‘ then you are EXACTLY the person I’m talking to. Once upon a time, a reporter knew enough to leave the station, story or no story. After all, news doesn’t happen in a newsroom. Those of you who rely solely on others for ideas should use that free time to look for another job, for an industry as crippled as ours has no more room for your dead weight.

No one hates useless live shots more than me, but the fact of the matter is your employer bought lots of live trucks and until they’re totally replaced by laptops, they’re gonna use them. So if your sole goal everyday is to wiggle out of that six o clock dog-lick live shot, understand this: you’re insuring your own extinction. Live shots are the one thing (most) photogs cannot do. Yes, standing outside some empty building at dinner time is a drag, but it beats standing outside the unemployment office wondering how you’re going to afford that fancy new iPhone you bought.

As a TV News photog, I’m expected to shoot clean video, edit quickly, find any address without GPS, set up a live shot in seconds flat and a growing host of other duties. I’m up for all these challenges and take quiet pride in doing them well. But one duty I’m more than willing to refuse is carrying your dead ass one. more. foot. You wanna be on Tee-Vee, get a chance to anchor, maybe wind up on a billboard someday? Fine, bring something to the table other than your workmanlike dedication to doing as little as possible every shift. That simply doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s a crime it ever did.

If you’re wearing a power suit and holding a big ole logo’d microphone, you have little business asking ME “What do you think I should say?”. Yes, collaboration is key and together we can come up with some pretty clever lines, but if time and time again you simply repeat my words verbatim into the lens, then you deserve to hold MORE than the microphone. How about the camera, the tripod, some batteries, a few lights...

Look at it this way: We drive around with thousands of dollars of sophisticated recording equipment in tow. You can’t phone it in EVERY day. Sure, there are times we can shoot a story in half an hour and spend thrice that amount of time on lunch. But that’s hardly a way to build your reel, let alone foster the kind of working relationship that can make reporter-photog collaboration an absolute joy. Remember, you have to work up some speed before you can coast.

And speaking of that reel you’re building... There was a time that even a reporter who didn’t know how to edit could press Record and dub themselves off a tape. No more. With non-linear editing, most on-air people don’t even know how to access their last package. So you find a photog who can help you and most often they do. Well, don’t ask me. As much as I‘d love to see you leave my shop, I have better things to do. Besides, foisting you on yet another TV station goes against my creed, much like wrapping up an extension cord goes against yours.

Still want to be a TV reporter? Cool, go find a story no one else has, convince a reluctant witness to talk on camera, melt the Rain-X off my lens with your scintillating presence. I’ll sing your praises from on high, when I’m not following you into the fire. Otherwise, go sell Mary Kay, real estate or perhaps your own plasma. As it is, you’re bringing me down, robbing the product of any relevance and proving this industry’s many critics correct with your unbridled lust for mediocrity. Back to you...

42 comments:

turdpolisher said...

wow. just wow.

hope whoever it was gets the message.

ring me if you gotta talk.

Richard said...

Stewart.... GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!!!! I've written this letter in my head so many times but never had the balls to send it out to the world. This truly needed to be said!

Rad

Richard said...

And I would LOVE to read the working reporter's letter to lazy photogs!

Rad

BocaWayne said...

As darkness is merely the absence of light, laziness is the absence of passion. Sounds like this person needs to examine if this is what they really want to do with their life, or if they would rather be an ornithologist.

Anonymous said...

Hallejuah brother Hallejuah !!!

Someone has finally said what needed to be said.

And it's not just local networks - this type of reporter exists at the network level as well.

There is a famous case of a reporter who did a feature pkg in November - and aired the EXACT same thing PKG in June - just changing his shirt for the stand-up.

Of course, no one at the network noticed.

True story !!

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Hugh said...

Why has true investigative journalism become a rare thing these days?

Anonymous said...

And all the true believers said "AMEN" Rev."Slinger" has not only read to the heathens from the good book, he's smacked 'em in the head with it! I hope you feel better now that's off your chest.

Anonymous said...

Glad you posted this Stewie!

Senator's Forum said...

Preach, Slinger, preach. Let the congregation say Amen!!!

Chris S said...

Well said Slinger, I know a few photogs (and reporter/anchors) that should read this and have a come to Jesus with themselves. Well done sir

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, when I was a reporter, I always offered to carry the photogs light box and tripod. I also drove many a time while the shooter copped a few z's. A free lunch from yours truly also went a long way toward a productive shift and a great story. Sure, I was kissing up, but I wanted a GREAT story not an average one and I couldn't do it by myself. Today, reporters show up late for the 9 o'clock meeting consistently without an excuse and most times without a legit idea. If they do offer a thought, it was on the competition the night before or in the morning fish wrapper or lifted from another stations web site. Reporters who are successful and want to advance their careers come to work early, make calls, offer follow-up ideas and have watched some of the morning shows. Reporters today are lazy for the most part and it has a contagious element attached to it as it brings down fellow workers. Nothing worse on a Monday morning to hear a reporter say I didn't watch any news over the weekend and I didn't read the weekend paper. Hey, it's your job to stay in touch with your world and then report on it. You're being paid to inform the viewer. Finally, you NEVER get a story when waiting for a return phone call. Go out and find the contact and turn the piece with the help of your partner, the photog.

Anonymous said...

God bless whoever wrote this! I'm a news director. But before I gave up journalism for accounting, I worked for many years first as a photog and then as a one man band. Currently, I've a shop full of the best photogs with whom I've ever worked. I've a couple top notch butt busting VJ's. And then I have some REALLY whiney reporters. Its my fault. I hired them. But, the GM worries more about happy happy people than happy productive people. So, day after day I watch with angst as my photogs carry the big end of the log. I wish someone in my shop would hold an unofficial meeting and preach this gospel.

K-Rock said...

Thank you for a true sermon! Slack asses have no place in the business. I've seen editing go to shite too and it makes me mad as hell because I want a job but can't get one because of the slack ass editors in the industry! I think I might post this blog up at school because I am seeing a a small group of slack asses coming up!

James said...

I certainly hope this is not the death rattle of journalism. Or that TV reporting has regressed to what it was in the '50s and the worst of the times since.

But it's looking that way. Too often.

Worse, because the dolts out there have a world view defined by TV.

So keep the faith, pal. Let those haircuts know what's what.

Anonymous said...

Most new grads from a good college Journalism program can write, shoot, edit and voice everything for the most part on their own. We may not have as much experience as other reporters, but were are more than pleased to work our behinds of for a shot a job that other reporters seem to take for granted. hint hint...

Anonymous said...

Well, let's not forget that many photogs are jealous anyway because reporters good or bad get the credit for the story while the fat, ass, smoke-smelling, photog stands behind the scenes. I have worked with more lazy photogs and editors than I have reporters and it's easy to pass the blame when you as a photog do NOTHING to help or offer guidance to your partner, but write an hour long dissertation about your distaste for reporters. In the long run, your long speech will NOT be heard. Not as long as reporters are in front the camera. An ND will dispose of a photog before a reporter any day, so don't forget that. Some people might read your letters and say "Ooo, wow, thanks brother for putting it out there.". It will all be forgotten within an hour. Thanks for nothing, but photogs are disposable and your opinion in the long run will never matter. A fat, old whiney, lazy photog over a reporter. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. NEXT!

I love News said...

Gee. What's wrong. Mother didn't hug you enough?
Sources and important people don't acknowledge you at the big story interview?

Let me get this straight. You complain about reporters not doing our jobs in the same breath that you complain that we don't help rollup an extension cord?
Hey buddy - that's your job. It's your equipment. When you were hired did your news director say, "and one day your weak ass will get help to carry YOUR stuff?"
Give me a break.

Maybe, I'll get a job packing boxes at FEDEX and complain that the person hired to help people at the front counter doesn't comeback to the wharehouse to help me pack boxes.

I don't have to get to work early to make calls and setup stories. I do that every day before I fall asleep at night and when I wakeup in the morning. I make calls from my vehicle. Sometimes I make calls while sitting on the toilet.
I have a phone and laptop. I'm not trying to prove anything to you by showing up early.

And, what about reporters who accept the challenge from news directors and producers to go after a great story, and all of that excitment is snuffed out when we get into a car with an old, lazy ass photographer who doesn't even bother to use a tripod? He wants to bitch the entire day but doesn't have the balls to go talk to the nd, ex prod, managing editor, but he will complain all day. He laughs when you want to do something creative, but doesn't have any alternative/ideas to offer.

You are a joke. What's wrong with the industry is that photographers think they are better and smarter than everyone else in the newsroom.
You hide in your news unit and lounge instead of showing up at the morning editorial meeting to offer some ideas and guidance.

You are lazy and bitter.
Adios.
I'm glad you left the news business.

Lenslinger said...

I am neither lazy or fat and have yet to leave the news business. I have carried more prom queens than most parade floats, however, and enjoy writing about it. Thanks for (mis)reading.

Weaver said...

To the commenters "I Love News" and "Annonymous" before that....

I think you misunderstand. There's no denying there are lazy (fill in the blank) of every job type and description.

A photog's job should not be more difficult with a reporter than without to turn the same story on any given day.

Read carefully the following two sentences and I think you'll understand.

"If you’re wearing a power suit and holding a big ole logo’d microphone, you have little business asking ME “What do you think I should say?”"

AND

"if time and time again you simply repeat my words verbatim into the lens, then you deserve to hold MORE than the microphone. How about the camera, the tripod, some batteries, a few lights..."

Anonymous said...

To the two reporters who chimed in, neither one of you knows what the hell you're talking about.

You either didn't take the time to read the whole story, or don't have the intellectual capacity to understand what he is talking about.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Tayleigh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Okay you have a point. But the age of devos and devas is dying out shriveling up quick. Only those who can swallow their pride by one-man-banding for less money will survive.
But you failed to mention the lazy side of photogs. What are they usually doing while the reporters write all their work???Sitting around playing Farmville on the internet.
"Cameras as small as potatoes." I don't know where you worked, but I'm a VJ and My camera is much larger than that...not to mention the tripod, light kit, mic, spare batteries, etc I have to log around in high-heeled shoes everyday. Listen, I'm no spring chicken and I'm no strong dude, but I do my fare share of work for half the pay...not to mention each story I must re-write perfectly for the web...otherwise viewers and management will give us hell.
Don't tell me I'm lazy...like you said the age of lazy reporters, devos, and devas is dying out. They day I get a camera as small as a potato to shoot with, I'll be one lucky woman...doing more with less aka quantity is more important than quality these days anyways.

-The Grape said...

Someone commented that it's a photog's "job" to carry the equipment. Oh, please. Someone please break that person's mirror.

It's common courtesy for a reporter to pull his or her share of the weight. We are a team when we're in the field, and that means helping the photog in any way possible.

When I was a reporter I always offered to carry something, roll up cables after a live shot, etc.

I now work for a network, and some kids might be surprised to learn that even household names still carry the tripod, run for coffee, and pull cables. Maybe that's the reason they work for a network.

Anonymous said...

Geez... are you always this hostile?
It seems to me that you have a real problem with a particular co-worker. Why not just ask the desk to avoid putting the two of you together if at all possible? Perhaps that would be a better way to deal with your resentment rather than spraying the rest of us with your vitriol.
There will always be slackers in every business. I've come across some (reporters, anchors, techs, photogs) after 20 years in the field, but to me, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. My experience has been that those people tend not to last long - and if they do, that's the fault of management.

As I tell my children when they want to wallow in negativity, you can either change your situation, or change your attitude.
This is a tough business, and its getting tougher. One of my survival skills is to avoid hanging around sullen people who bring everyone down.

I've never read your blog before. I did because a co-worker passed it around, and I honestly I don't think I'll ever read it again.

Anonymous said...

lord knows, or maybe you know since your the greatest shooter in the history of shooting. there are never any lazy photogs. this guy just sounds like a bitter old do who is probably protected by the union and is a lazy know it all.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's not forget that many photogs are jealous anyway because reporters good or bad get the credit for the story while the fat, ass, smoke-smelling, photog stands behind the scenes. I have worked with more lazy photogs and editors than I have reporters and it's easy to pass the blame when you as a photog do NOTHING to help or offer guidance to your partner, but write an hour long dissertation about your distaste for reporters. In the long run, your long speech will NOT be heard. Not as long as reporters are in front the camera. An ND will dispose of a photog before a "reporter any day, so don't forget that. Some people might read your letters and say "Ooo, wow, thanks brother for putting it out there.". It will all be forgotten within an hour. Thanks for nothing, but photogs are disposable and your opinion in the long run will never matter. A fat, old whiney, lazy photog over a reporter. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. NEXT! " Actually you speak as if you dont have much experience. Not to down reporters at all but reporters move around much more than photographers. The photographers are the ones who are usually around for the long haul and typically out live most reporters at the stations. Just look around. If you dont see that then you must be in a pretty small market where there is high turnover. BTW there are lazy photographers and they piss me off just as much as the lazy reporters. Lets just realize this is one photographers side. Its not to say a reporter doesnt have there gripes as well.

Anonymous said...

That came out jammed up so let me reformat it for yall.


"Well, let's not forget that many photogs are jealous anyway because reporters good or bad get the credit for the story while the fat, ass, smoke-smelling, photog stands behind the scenes. I have worked with more lazy photogs and editors than I have reporters and it's easy to pass the blame when you as a photog do NOTHING to help or offer guidance to your partner, but write an hour long dissertation about your distaste for reporters. In the long run, your long speech will NOT be heard. Not as long as reporters are in front the camera. An ND will dispose of a photog before a "reporter any day, so don't forget that. Some people might read your letters and say "Ooo, wow, thanks brother for putting it out there.". It will all be forgotten within an hour. Thanks for nothing, but photogs are disposable and your opinion in the long run will never matter. A fat, old whiney, lazy photog over a reporter. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. NEXT! "


Actually you speak as if you dont have much experience. Not to down reporters at all but reporters move around much more than photographers. The photographers are the ones who are usually around for the long haul and typically out live most reporters at the stations. Just look around. If you dont see that then you must be in a pretty small market where there is high turnover. BTW there are lazy photographers and they piss me off just as much as the lazy reporters. Lets just realize this is one photographers side. Its not to say a reporter doesnt have there gripes as well.

Anonymous said...

Think the reporters here are being rather defensive.

I think you struck a raw nerve Stew...

Can you do a rant next on anchors who spend the entire eff'ing day on Facebook? Pretty please?

By the way Anonymous at 6:47 PM, Pittman has been shooting news for well over twenty years. He's earned the right to bitch about those who are in the business just to be "a star on teevee."

Anonymous said...

A rant on anchors who spend the day on fb, evening sleeping, assignment desk editors who play angry birds all day and turn down the scanner or the clueless ND....while those who are passionate about news try to save the sinking ship. I'm a one man band and it takes all kinds....to make it happen or to sink the news ship.

Anonymous said...

You've made some great points. A great photographer is worth way more than the equipment or she carries. Great video can make a good package a great package.

Just as there are lazy/incompetent reporters, there are also lazy/incompetent photogs. Both can stop news dead in its tracks.

The most important thing, aside from not being lazy, is to appreciate when you've got a great photographer or a great reporter with you and make the most of the collaboration.

Johnny Cat said...

Sorry bud, but you soud so annoying!! I have been in this industry for years and it's doomsday idiots like you who have tarnished an otherwise great industry.

Lazy reporter? Photogs aren't lazy?

I find that comment amusing since most of the time you're more likely to see the camera-dude lugging around a Winchell's doughnut--than an engcamera.

You're one of those old dinosaurs who needs to retire.

If I had 10 cents for every grumpy photog with an ax to grind, I'd make Bill Gates look like a hobo.

SHUT UP!!!

Whew! I feel better now.

Oh, and brush up on your writing skills. Your long rant was quite hard on th eyes (and brain).

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how many photographers I work with who are phoning it in. There are lazy photographers too. The other day I asked a photog to shoot some video. He replied, "Can't you get file for that?"

IluvTV said...

Ha ha, great writeup! At least I know you work in TV and all the commenters as well, judging by all the spelling and gramatical errors! It's the question I always ask the reporters/producers/writers/etc... "Haven't you heard of spell check?"

Bob F. Dowd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob F. Dowd said...

Excellent Blog Post. Right on the $. Terrestrial Television is in trouble, local TV audiences are choosing other media by the millions each minute of the day. Laziness is an issue, and only true professionals will survive and succeed.

So for everyone this blog is calling out, and those sick of working with them:

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Anonymous said...

There's a point when newsrooms have to hire WORKERS rather than bimbos to fill up every available anchor chair. Right? I have yet to see it happen. I'm so sick of news management not making the perky girls with two inch makeup do their job because they bat their eyes in a certain way, but the rest of the newsroom has to pull their slack. It finally gets old. All TV news directors want these days when hiring are air-headed, lazy ding dongs; I suppose this happens so the ND can tell everyone how "hot" their female reporters/anchors are. GROW THE HELL UP. Let's get back to journalism and get rid of the Barbie contest, guys. This isn't the Dog and Pony show. THIS is what's wrong with traditional TV News.

Bob F. Dowd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Change is the only Constant said...

Six do's and Don's for your next job search.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with a lot of what you're talking about, you've missed one very important detail: News managers don't care. At least where I work.

I've been a photog in several top ten markets. I can bust my ass off and turn out an amazing piece of journalism, or slack off, and it doesn't matter. They just want something to air. ANYTHING. Now, I'm not talking about breaking news, I'm talking about the standard pkg that makes up 90% of my time. That's why there are now VJs in DC, Detroit, just to name a few large markets. It's about saving costs.

In all honesty, I'm on my out of the news business. I'm going back to school. I used to be really hungry for news, and I just feel like it's changing. It is what it is. It sucks that kids out of college can get hired in LA and DC with no reporting experience (and they do. I've worked with them) but the truth is they're willing to bust their asses off, and I am not. Good for them.

Mainstreet said...

One thing both sides of this debate needs to remember...reporters usually come and go as contracts end, but photogs, at least in the smaller markets, tend to stay put. We know the people, the streets, and we've been putting up with newbie reporters for YEARS. As our ND says...."photogs know where the bodies are buried". The GM calls it "institutional memory".
One other important saying from an old ND of mine..."part of the word "reporter" is the word "porter", make them carry something!".