Saturday, November 04, 2006

Daughtry Drops By

Me and Chris DaughtryBefore I left to rendezvous with the hillbilly, a smoldering bald rocker rolled through the station's double door. Enter Chris Daughtry - sans entourage, just him in a hoodie. I was waiting for him in the lobby with a camera on my shoulder, a stiff yellow cable in tow. I backpedaled as Chris strode down the hall toward the green room, and he cut me a questioning look. 'We're On The Air' I stage whispered, even though there was no audio being transmitted from my camera. Chris eyes widened and he nodded. I then wanted to blink some kind of morse-code message at him, warn him that a building full of seasoned local TV pros were giggling with anticipation and wanted nothing more than to swoop down upon him with hearty back-slaps and enthusiastic high fives. Instead, I backed into a lightstand and almost made the angst-filled vocalist shoot bottled water out of his nose. There's never a shortage of humiliation when you're a shooter.

Later I tried to redeem myself, shooting handheld footage as Chris and his band tore through a stripped down version of his upcoming single, "It's Not Over". Truthbetold, we weren't expecting the band. When the young hipster musicians began showing up we scrambled for microphones and stools as the second hand ticked toward showtime. When the stoked and steady hand of the morning director took our shot, the edges of the studio were filled with curious coworkers. When Chris' last turbo-note faded, applause broke out and I unplugged my camera. Outside, Unit 4 sat trip-laden and late for the road. I meant to say later to the local boy gone global, but giddy cohorts enveloped him in a sea of adulation. To his credit, he stuck it out, posing for pictures, taking calls and from the looks of this photo, fullfilling his longheld ambition of doing mid-morning weather.

I guess dreams really do come true...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Spot News Apocalypse

While I hunched over my newsroom computer last Wednesday, Eastern Guilford High School burned all around me. Harried coworkers bustled back and forth, barking sentence fragments like soldiers under fire as telephones exploded on evey desk. On the cavernous room's many monitors, flickering images of a smoke plume atop a red brick building signaled conditions at The Front. Four of the screens blared audio as well, a mishmash of excited colleagues - panting voices of people I know, postulating on an event I still didn't quite believe. It was getting hard to focus on the forgettable words before me. But hammer on I did, knowing the minute-fifteen script I was whittling on would probably never air. Not with a fireball swallowing a public school on live television.

For awhile I was giddy not to be there. A fire of that size demands a full-metal racket - wall to wall team smotherage that doesn't come without a few new battle scars. I've stormed that hill a time or ten and no doubt will again, but not today. With a fluff piece in the can and gear to pack for my Nashville sortie, I was initially tickled to loiter at The Rear. But as the compelling pictures poured in I found myself fidgeting in my news cube. History was goin' down a few miles away and I wasn't there to smell it. Foot soldiers like me hate when that happens. So I hunkered low and waited for the hit that never came.

Instead, I watched an awful lot of co-workers and combatants at the top of their game. From the first plume of smoke to the eventual conflagration, lenses twisted and microphones poked, creating a teeming stream of sight sound and data that captivates the audience like no other media can. Breaking news on live television news ain't art, but neither is it visual vandalism. Rather, it's rich with iconic imagery, from the fiery gutting of a public school to the titters and tears of the student body watching. In the end, I was okay with watching this one from afar, but only because my peers provided such a truly bracing view. Can't wait to hear their war stories...

In The Studio

Lenslinger Lit
I was gonna hold off telling you why I dashed to Nashville, but a certain giggling hick's rabid fansite figured it out: I went to see Bucky. Covington, that is - former American Idol Contestant, fellow Carolina Boy and official Friend of the Show. I found him in a recording booth outside Music City, slathering swamp grease vocals all over his post-Idol polish. He and his hosts - the fellas from Sawyer Brown - were perfect video specimens, ignoring me completely as my lens and I skulked about their swanky digs. While they twiddled knobs and laid down tracks, I moved around like an assassin and tried not to tap my foot. It was tough, though - as the song being built around me was both highly approachable and surprisingly potent. (Think young Charlie Daniels channeling Axl Rose...if you can.) My bosses ask that I not say much more before our series piece airs and since on their stipend I rely, I'll happily comply. Coming Thursday: Quotes, photos, video links and enough southern fried charm to choke a Possum Queen. For now though, Bucky Fans - scrawl down these two words: Empty-Handed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All I Want for Christmas...

The vest, that jaunty stance, those freakishly white shoes - I think I'm in love! At least as much as a suburban father of two can be with a twelve inch action figure. Don't ask why. Okay, perhaps it's because he reminds me so much of me - should I get shipped overseas, don oddly-cut dungarees and forget how to properly hold a TV news camera. Whatever the case, I want one, which is why I'm forever positioning him front and center on my humble site. Here's the plan: Either I score some unlikely endorsement deal with the makers of said doppelganger - or for once Mrs. Lenslinger checks out my blog and drops a suitable hint in Santa's ear. Otherwise I'll be forced to place the order myself, then play dumb when the swarthy little dude arrives via big brown truck. Then and only then would I have a proper media member to disaptch should calamity break out at my daughter's Barbie Dreamhouse. Hey, it could happen...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Grandma and Me

Grandma and Me
Sure, my high school reunion was fun - even if I did remain stoic and sober while the rest of my old classmates grew increasingly silly (you know who you are, Deborah). But even that country club affair couldn't compare to my rendezvous with Rosa Mae Canady - the beloved matriarch of my particular clan. At age 95, she's barely aware of camera-phones or the internet - and you can rest assured she's never heard of 'lenslinger'. What she does know is the suffusion of sunshine, for her mere presence brightens the heart of even her most melancholy descendant. Though I seriously doubt I've inherited her longevity, I'd like to think I got my love of reading from my Mother's Mom. It's just one of the many gifts this special lady passed along and I'm so very glad my own children have come to know her well. Here's hoping your Grandmother rocks as much as mine.

Photogs on Parade

Via News Blues, word of a station that thinks so much of its photog staff - it actually put their bio's online. If that strikes you as no big deal, then you haven't surfed alot of TV station websites. If you had, you'd know most are electronic shrines to stiff-haired talent - generic Kens and Barbies that look strikingly like their on-air opponents across the street, state and nation. Not WTSP. The Tampa, Florida CBS affiliate not only post their lenslingers' names and pictures; they even include background information and examples of their work. Why, it's almost as if the suits at WTSP consider their photog staff to be equal partners in the newsgathering process! Talk about a novel concept...

Okay, so perhaps I'm overselling it. Lots of stations recognize the hard working men and women behind the lens for what they are - the overburdened backbone of their operations. Some even beat WTSP to the punch by including photog blurbs on their websites long ago. But for every forward-thinking powerhouse, there are easily a dozen cess-pool shops where any newsroom member without a stack of glossy headshots and a fresh Sharpie is considered sub-human. Luckily, that doesn't include my employer. El Ocho is known far and wide for harboring intensive lensers. Whatsmore, the on-air cats I work with truly seem to appreciate the skills we pack mules bring to the broadcast. Hell, we were even named medium market Station of the Year by something called the NPPA. Who knew?

Sadly though, there exist many an affiliate where inequality is the status quo - especially in smaller markets, where anchor ego is often inversely proportionate to the region's population. I'm reminded of an o-l-d colleague - a newsreader so vain and vacuous, her co-workers rightly considered her a human cartoon. Once, when a hapless news shooter mistakenly sat in her chair, she lambasted the poor guy for absconding with her throne. "Why, I don't even know that boy's name!" she bragged to a cohort. Come to think of it, I'm having a hard time remembering her name - as she was soon exiled from employ for being quite simply, an abomination. Last I heard, she was slumming on the far end of the public access dial - over-emoting on cue for anyone unlucky enough to have misplaced their remote control.

Perhaps there is a Broadcast God, after all.