Saturday, November 22, 2008

Texts of Reckoning

Remember Eugene Shelton? -- the TV news photog who whipped out his cellphone in the middle of a sheriff's briefing and - with a few text messages - let a nightclub-owning buddy know about that many men in Kevlar were heading his way?
"On the way to you man. Mickey's. Clean it up now."
That's ballsy. And stupid. But I'm not here to pass judgement on Mr Shelton. That's Onslow County District Court Judge Louis Foy's job, who just last week, found the 32 year old former photog Guilty of obstructing an officer. His 72 hours of community service and suspended sentence won't go down in the annals of crime history, but his story can serve as a cautionary tale for those of with an all-access pass to crackhouses, squad-cars and palaces.
...The messages were sent May 3 in the middle of a 3 a.m. briefing by the Sheriff's Department in preparation of a raid on Club Mickey's on U.S. 258 between Jacksonville and Richlands.
Been there. No really, I've been there! A the dawn of the nineties I worked the crime and grime circuit all over Eastern North Carolina, from the backrooms of the Brown Building in downtown Greenville to the fingerprint machine at Kinston P.D., I huddled with detectives and rode shotgun with deputies as they raided everything from meth-labs to moonshine stills. Many an early morning I joined the Crown Vic convention at King's Bar Be Cue in Kinston and gorged on a hillbilly breakfast buffet, before loading up in some officer's ride for a pre-dawn road on drug case roundups. All while living like a dirt poor college kid!
...To keep information about the raid from leaking out beforehand, (Sheriff Ed Brown) told everyone in the meeting not to use their cell phones until cleared to do so...
But even though I recognized the irony of hanging out with vice cops in the morning and college town derelicts in the afternoon, it never occured to me to mix my chocolate with with anybody's peanut butter. Luckily for me, professional freshmen with frisbee golf addictions were never really targeted by the local po-leece, so I never had to decide whether I should rat out that shady neighbor who for beer money would re-wire your apartment with illegal cable TV. Even if I had, I can't imagine digging my bag phone (remember those?) out of my heavily logoed Ford Escort and dropping the dime on much of anybody.
...WITN-TV news reporter Chelsea Donovan testified she saw Shelton texting during the briefing, She also told the court that she saw Shelton and Heather Ford - a reporter for Channel 12 at the time - arguing after the meeting...
Torn loyalties, unfettered access and perhaps, too much technology. It all adds up to a momentary lapse of reason that continues to affect one news shooter's life, career and reputation. It's enough to make one want to take up clean livin' - that or do something about that nasty news habit... Seriously, there are hotlines for that kind of stuff!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bartles and Lame

Me and Council Bradshaw circa 1991Hmmmm. That's either a recently unearthed picture of Edgar Winter throwin' down with that dillweed from My Two Dads, or it's a long-lost photo of me and my old pal Council. But WAIT! - this isn't just another celebration of mullets past. There's some actual broadcast history here... See, when I first stumbled into a TV station, I harbored a half-baked ambition. In short, I wanted to be that mercurial guru who made amazing television. Then I learned Eastern Carolina already had one of those: some stringy-haired genius named Council Bradshaw. Council? Whose name is Council?!?

I soon found out. He was ... my biggest competition. Firmly ensconsed at that other station, Council was a year ahead of me in the business and infinitely more talented. When I first began producing local commercials, I'd feel pretty good about every third one. Then I'd flip over to Channel X and catch the latest Bradshaw production. Three point lighting, tailored soundtracks, smoke machines, flying monkeys ... every time I mastered a fundamental, ole long hair would make some quantum leap and my reel would suddenly look like the pathetic small market hackery it truly was. So I started making promos for my station's news product, only to watch Casper here do pirouettes around me with his slicker than thou image campaigns. His 'Ben and Brad' spots were pieces of freaking art - and they still hold up to this day. Yes, for the first year of my career, I wanted to BE Council Bradshaw - that, or push the damn hippy in front of a bus.

But a funny thing happened on the way to homicide. I met him. Come to find out, he was just some starry-eyed cat from the sticks who dreamed of TV glory - just like ME! In time we became great friends - even if he did regularly mop up the local awards circuit with my budding wrestler 'do. After 18 months or so of watching him chew my food, I followed my instincts into the equally thankless world of news. There I flourished, grew cocky and on a young man's whim, told my first News Director where he could stuff his broadcast. A few week later, I took a job with Channel X for a little more coin. I was young, proud and more than a little stoked to finally be on Council's team. He seemed pleased too and when he presented me with a shiny black station windbreaker, I made sure to wear it the day I took my fancycam for a swim. It was the least I could do.

While I settled into bureau life, working the mean streets of Kinston and Greenville under the tutelage of Spencer, Kusbit and Dunn, my other begrudging mentor found himself at odds with the diabolical worm that ran Channel X. Not being without contacts or options, Council fled to higher ground to make station promos somewhere in the Piedmont. I realized immediately why he left, but didn't let it stop me from eventually assuming his old position as Chocowinity's whipping boy. A couple of years later, when I found myself fantasizing about climbing the tower out back and picking off certain coworkers, I exercised my one last option. I rang up the most talented TV guy I knew. Council took my call and offered me a free tour of a place called El Ocho. The rest, is Lenslinger history...

Until a couple of years ago, when, having grown weary tired of endless station ad campaigns and multiple local Emmys - Council once again proved he was smarter me by leaving behind the grind of daily television. Nowadays, he's got his own slick-ass production firm and from what I hear, is doing quite well. When he mentioned recently he'd found a picture of the two of us from some early 90's TV party, I encouraged him to upload it to Facebook. What he didn't tell me is that - for reasons I can't fully explain - I'm grinning like an imbecile and double-fisting two open wine coolers...

Thanks, Buddy!

Stories Your Only Reward

firedog 2
WANTED:Semi-rugged individuals for overland camera portage. Low Wages. Guaranteed Fatigue. Career Longevity Doubtful. Applicants should thrive on deadline and abhor flourescent light. Cynicism a Plus. Contortionism a Must. Some Stunt-Driving Required. Upper Body Strength Essential. Thousand Yard Stare Optional. Casual Dress...Intense Points of View. Burnout Virtually Assured. Those interested should proceed immediately to their nearest TV newsroom and act as if the place is making them crazy. Wearers of Sweater-Vests NEED NOT APPLY.

(Dip of the lens to Dave Malkoff for another amazing photo.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meanwhile, Back on the Brink....

While I've been dealing with the monster response from a certain secondary site, Bryan Frank has been taking in the view above Placerita Canyon. It was there (and elsewhere) that beFrank spent this past past weekend, covereing the wildfires that engulfed parts of his beloved Southern California. Far less is burning than just a few days ago, but the hurting continues. Our local news vet knows this; it colors his perception as he surveys the rubble all around him. His amazing blog bears witness to all that he sees, complete with jaw-dropping photography and always thoughtful prose. Those folks convinced all camera crews are heartless jackals would do well to visit his site. At the very least, they'll get to see some staggering still shots, long before they earn their rightful place in some West Coast art gallery...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Schmuck Alert: THE BLOG!

Ever since orb-hurling hothead Kenny "Not the Gambler" Rogers openly assailed a cameraman for reasons known only to himself, I've felt compelled to issue Schmuck Alerts. What can I say? Some folks were put on this Earth to cure Polio, refine space flight, or stop global warming. Me - I'm here to lambast those who manhandle fancycams. I'm cool with that. What I'm NOT cool with is my civic duty interfering with the meandering introspection and half-baked analysis highlighted here at Viewfinder BLUES. So, after a long weekend of being locked away in the Lenslinger Labs with the trusty Weave, I appear before you addled, odiferous and a more dedicated than ever to kicking my pixel-addiction. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Give it a click, won't you? There you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about those folks stupid enough to wrestle with a functional recording device. Cops! Criminals! City Leaders! Celebrities! Some guy with gravy on his shirt! NOBODY IS SAFE from the open disdain and trademark snark doled out at this, the latest subsidiary of Lenslinger Industries. Come for the mockery! Stay for the overblown prose! No -- wait! Don't Go! it ain't just me runnin' my mouth. Oh No! We got a cast of thousands! (Okay, Weaver said he would help...)

The Schmuck Alert Justice League aims to be you one-stop source for unwarranted fisticuffs with the Fourth Estate. Videos! Polls! Guest contributors and maybe even a Poetry Slam or two! When it comes to spotlighting the plight of camera crews and the buffoons who abuse them, is well worth the visit. Be one of the first hundred visitors and win a Viewfinder BLUES virtual t-shirt! Think how impressed your Facebook friends will be when you tell them you're wearing that over your regular pajama top!

Seriously, if stops just ONE portly rent-a-cop, ONE shackled crackhead, ONE star-crossed trollop from laying hands on their friendly neighborhood lenslinger, then the three showers I skipped over the past few days will be more than worth it. Just ask my wife! Or better yet - leave us alone altogether! There's plenty to keep you busy over there, so dive right and get your fill of silly linkage, sophomoric humor and more scary drifters than you can shake a restraining oder at. When you're back in the mood for more adult fare, I'll be RIGHT HERE ... playing with my action-figure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Under the Smother of Coverage

While I've been locked away in Lenslinger Central, my West Coast brethren have been pointing lenses at a monster. How else to describe the combined fires that have razed more than 20,000 acres in southern California since Thursday? High winds and human error are no doubt to blame, but none of that really matters when your homeland goes up in flames. Those far enough away from the flames have no doubt been glued to the tube as news crews have scramble up overlooks to watch swirling plumes turn swank enclaves to cinders. That's a weekend of Overtime everyone could have done without - including reporter Dave Malkoff, who like beFrank and a certain R. Busse, is capturing stunning stills amid the smother of coverage. Here's hoping they all get back to chasing trollops and starlets very, very soon...

(PICTURED: Ken Kohler, Freeway Complex Fire Chino Hills, CA)