Thursday, December 06, 2012

Burning Down the House

The Hof
Though logic would dictate he turn around, I can assure you, Steve Hofbauer knows exactly where to point that thing. In fact, this gentle brute forced me to dig a little deeper every time he rolled up on scene. From grabbing shots before I could think of them to convincing witnesses to emote in his direction, I could never relax when "The Hof" was afoot. Weirdest of all, I liked the guy! Maybe it's because we share the same lineage. Perhaps it's because he could probably snap me in half. Whatever the reason, we bonded many times over - when we weren't trying to gouge each others eyes out.

These days, however, Hof sightings are pretty rare. Not so long ago, dude got really smart and left the business. Now he can be found performing his magic in the hallowed halls of Academia, where I hope the eggheads appreciate what they got. See, Steve has the instincts and experience borne of a million deadlines met. He's shot every story there is a half dozen different ways and as far as I know, he chews his food with his mouth closed. Why, you'd think a newsroom would do whatever it took to keep such an apex predator in place.   

You'd be wrong.

Now, I'm SURE Hof's old station hated to see him go and from all that I can tell their commercials aren't bumping into each other for lack of content. But I truly believe we'll look back someday at the mass egress of people like Steve as the beginning of the end of news as we know it. Yes, there will always be pretty faces on screen recapping the day's events, but understand this: local TV News is hemorrhaging talent like never before.  When a veteran leaves, they're replaced (if at all) by fresh young faces who are expected to do it ALL for far fewer escudos. That they do - and it shows. 

Will station's go dark as a result? Probably not. But the journalistic services they provide will become shockingly shallow, until the very idea of gleaning anything useful from local TV news will seem as quaint as that old pocket watch you hocked to help buy an iPad. It didn't have to be this way, but quantum leaps in technology and a dearth of ad dollars have all but enabled our assisted suicide. If that doesn't concern you, you're probably my children's' age - which, ironically, is just a few years junior to that of your average local TV reporter these days.

Is this the rambling of a fellow fossil? A case of hand-wringing from a guy who can't help but read the writing on the wall?  One last battle cry from the surviving member of a doomed platoon? Yes. Yes, it is. But if you're gonna take my fancycam, you'll have to pry it from my leathery grip, for unlike The Hofinater here, I gots no place to go. Besides, I still dig the view. And while my contemporaries may be exiting stage left, right and every direction in between, I'm not quite prepared to go make brag tapes, widget demos or commencement montages just yet... YET.

Now get off my lawn!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sling For Your Supper...

Big Lens StewEver drag a fully functional fancycam through a Department of Social Services? It’s like covering a red carpet event in reverse! Seriously, if I have one more crack addict look at me in disgust, I’m gonna go throat-punch my high school guidance counselor. Then again, I never paid much attention to that lady anyway. Now that I’m all growed up, though, I can’t help but think what a little forethought may have done for my state of mind, let alone something as meandering as my career path.

Would I be the same person if I never knew the reaction one gets when asking fresh vasectomy patients if they’d like to remove the bag of frozen peas from their lap and tell central North Carolina just what Obamacare means to them?

Could I better relate to the proletariat had I not first learned to pin Wal Mart shoppers in their cars until they came up with six good answers to “Hot enough for ya?” (Lay on their hood and twitch. It stuns them until you can get the microphone out.)

Would I feel the same about the judicial system had I never been dressed down by that bailiff that caught me filming him chortling in his sleep? And do you know of a website that would properly pay for that sort of footage?

Should I have truly pursued higher education, instead of filing daily digests on everything from hard cider homicides to tips on picking that perfect poinsettia? Would it have made me a more intoxicating cocktail party guest?

Would I have so warned my children about the perils of zealotry had I not spent so much of my working life sharing air with convicted criminals, city council members, and (shudder) TV consultants?

Could I have possibly spent s-o-o many hours writing about my workaday adventures had I fallen into something less skeevy that TV news? Like crime scene clean up, Port-A-John repair or premature taxidermy?

You're right: There's nothing's skeevier than TV News.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Lark of The Beast

Buzzard Bus
Ever have an old chum ring you up and be all like...

 “A tanker truck full of cucumber juice just flipped over on the interstate! We got all three westbound lanes knee-deep in pickle spit! Strother’s gonna meet you with the jet-pack! GO!” 

No? You must not shoot news. If you did, you’d be perfectly versed in the Doctrine of Improbability. It’s a basic precept in the Book of Lenslinger that exposits - through a series of Cheeto-encrusted flash cards - that the less likely something is to actually happen, the more likely you’ll be on call when it finally does. I can’t really explain it without breaking out the Handy Wipes, but just know the next time you’re scrambling up an overpass for a better look at the chunky purple smoke plume, you probably had it coming. Me, I got Inconvenience on speed dial.

Which is not to say I totally loathe spot news. Freight train derailments have their place (down by the tracks, I’ve found) but you really have to be in the mood. I wind my way to the back of the newscast, where there’s more control amid the whip cream rodeos. Less bloodshed, too. Not to mention other non household stains... “What’s that? Geysers are spiraling over the waste-water treatment plant and you need me on scuba-cam? That could be a problem. See, I’m all the way over in Itchy Grove, where they’re having their annual ‘Macrame Days’. I got all the sound I need, but the Mayor’s about to bust out his best oven mitt and I don’t wanna miss it. Fountain of brown wouldn’t look good in plasmas anyway. Clashes with the rest of the set. Hmm? Yes, I know, hot open and three teases. Bye.”

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the breakdown lane. Ya know, I can’t recommend you ever loiter there, as many photogs I know consider it to be their own private flight path...

“Hey, life’s what happens when you’re missing slot. Besides, that glimmer in the distance is the competition raising their mast. If you don’t put the hammer down now, we’re gonna miss the widow again. Last time that happened, bossman made me spend the night in The Box! I didn’t walk upright for three days! Now is that a tripod in your trunk or did you just skip middle college? Those glass shards aren’t gonna rack themselves into focus, ya know. And that throng of zombies glaring at the sheet metal? They’re bristling with Emmy Award winning soundbites! Now step on it, before there’s no state troopers left to grill! For the love of Savitch, I want us turning wreckage into spectacle before that cable news trollop heaves the first bosom! My God, man, is there no logo on your soul? G-O-O-O!”

I gotta run.