Sunday, December 22, 2013

God Rest Ye Merry Cameramen

"God Rest Ye Merry Cameramen"

God Rest Ye Merry Cameramen,
control the nosy fray,
Remember that the desk is calling,
pick up with no delay.
Crank the generators power,
the talent's gone astray.
O, the trappings of staying employed,
staying employed,
O, the trappings of staying employed.

In markets small and medium,
your photog dream was born,
Now it's Christmas & you're working,
but don't become forlorn.
At least the station isn't cheap,
In logos you're adorned.
O, the trappings of staying employed,
staying employed,
O, the trappings of staying employed.

From God our Heavenly Father,
A blessed natpak came,
Just remember to make your slot,
there's no one else to blame.
Don't let your video be blue,
or when it airs you're the same.
O, the trappings of staying employed,
staying employed,
O, the trappings of staying employed.

Merry Christmas! -de

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Arts & Crafts (A Pep Talk of Sorts)

We've all been there.  You've got a boring assignment.  You've got a video poor story.  You've got to fill almost two minutes of television with something

We (news photographers) all run into restrictions to our daily deadline, every day.  So how do you reconcile making slot while fulfilling your need to create something artsy and tasteful?  Assuming you haven't resigned yourself to just mailing it in, bouncing some RF around your coverage area, and making sure your interview subjects don't look like smurfs... This is a question that plagues you on a day to day basis, or maybe at least once a week.  (Let's be honest, we all also have those days when all we want to do is catch a lunch break and make sure we make slot. I get it... but in my opinion, if you're doing this job because you love it and not just for the paycheck, there's still that itch to be creative. :::GASP:::)

Find a character, pin a lav on them, find some nats, make a quick sequence, put it on TV, and in doing so, stick it to the man...  Find your little victory for the day.

There is no reason that those of who desire to be creative in our craft should resign ourselves to simply slapping it together to make air.  I get it, believe me... I GET it.  Some days, many days, most days, there is no alternative.  But that alone should be fuel to the fire of your creativity.

When you're pulling almost 50 hours a week chasing fires, wrecks, and real estate... default yourself to embrace that one interview and b-roll opportunity that allows you to do what is that you know you were put on this earth to do... MAKE TV.  When it comes together, it's a beautiful thing.  When it falls apart, it'll bug you for a day or two, but trust me... you'll get over it.

Just remember a few things: 1) A good craftsman, never ever blames his/her tools.  Don't suggest a technical debacle because you double punched or forgot to white balance.  Embrace your errors, own them, learn from them, and move on.  2)  You're only as good as your last story.  Shoot a banging story on Monday and catch a burner on Thursday?  They won't remember your memorable moments from the beginning of the week, they'll only glance at your oversights.  It happens, you're an adult and people screw up.  You don't have a biblical plague on your hands.  Move on.  And 3) You're ALSO as good as your last story.  You know it and the boss knows it.  Otherwise, you wouldn't have been given the assignment, and you were likely given it for a reason.  Celebrating your accomplishments is not bragging because, and I'm quoting a good friend here... "It ain't braggin' if it's the truth."

When you have a questionable day in television news, remember that you are doing a job that few get to and that many people in this warped world covet.  If a banker screws up, there's typically a wave of repercussion.  If a food worker screws up, people get sick and sue the restaurant.  If a lawyer fails to make his argument effectively, people go to jail.  We get the chance to right our wrongs from day to day. 

It's not rocket science, it's only live television.  What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with television news.

This is my blog, and I can write about whatever the heck I want to.  Today I'm writing about my good friend Chase Shumate.

I met Chase randomly at Port City during a small group mixer, shortly before I got engaged to Kristy.

This mighty (tiny) man of God and I have shared more laughs, tears, heartfelt talks, craft beers, grilled hamburgers, cornhole games, time on the beach, bar stools, tattoo chairs, and general good times than the stars in the sky.

All of this bravado for Chase isn't for naught, or meant to find him a date, (Although ladies, he is single.  Good job, health benefits, he cooks and cleans too.) Enough of that...

This is because few people know the helpless abandonment I feel when I'm left to my own devices. Kristy is gone this week, and I don't do well alone... At all.  I begin to question life decisions.  I begin to question my place in this world. I begin to ponder my purpose and wonder if what I'm doing with my life has meaning.  I begin to wonder if my past and my sin has caught up with me and if God has forgotten about me.  I get scared. 

Kristy is in Thailand covering Franklin Graham's festival.  She's covering events and stories and telling the story of God's redemptive love for his sons and daughters.  What did I do today? I shot a story on sweepstakes parlors being shutdown in Charlotte.  (Pause and think about that for a moment.)

Now, marriage isn't about comparing yourself to your spouse.  A high profile job with travel isn't any more "holy" than a tv news camera guy who pushes glass for a living.  I understand both of these points.  It doesn't make it any easier when she's gone.  The root of my desire to have my wife near me is simply this, I am not complete without her.  I don't care if that makes you sick to your stomach or not, or if you think it's mushy and over the top.  I am openly unapologetic about my love for my wife and the grace God showed me when He saw fit to marry us.

Often times, seeing the impact her work has can make me feel like mine is insignificant.  I think it's fair to say that as a man, alot of my pride is tied to the work I do.  Pushing glass in a smokey sweepstakes parlor while your wife is on the other side of the planet witnessing people make life changing decisions and entering into a relationship with God, can be a little jarring to the system and really make you question your line of work.

But the truth is this: I love my job.  I love meeting new people everyday.  I love being a camera jockey.  I love working at a job that lets me get out of the building every day. 

Enter my friend Chase... We were talking tonight about all of this self pity, introspection, etc, etc and he says to me: "Dustin, don't ever feel inadequate because of Kristy's job. You have to support her. You reach many people through her. You help her be successful. That's not something to overlook.  You supporting her is your job. You are "behind the scenes" just as you are in your camera job."

And then he sends me this picture. It took a few moments for all of that to sink in, but when it did, there weren't enough tissues in this apartment to mop up my tears and snot.

So, where does all of this leave me? I'm glad you asked.  If you've managed to make it this far into this rant, you've certainly realized #1, how therapeutic just writing this down has been. And #2, I am truly a man blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

At the end of the day, I have a job I truly love, a smoking hot wife who will undoubtedly bring me cool trinkets from Thailand (hint, hint), and a very good friend like Chase Shumate to present a little perspective into my life when I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Now, isn't there something on fire that I need to go shoot?

Monday, November 4, 2013


In  the world of television news, the highly coveted "dayside" shift of Monday - Friday, 9:30-6:30, is to a news photographer... what the sirens were to Odysseus.  It's a cruel temptress that always seems just out of reach....

Well, not for this guy!  Today was my first Monday as a daywalker.  My new shift has finally kicked in.  I started my day by avoiding papercuts while sifting through this weekends' police reports, shot a quick vosot, and then loaded up into the chopper to head to a scene... but not before I snapped the uber popular "chopper selfie".

We headed out to Lincoln County and helped the sheriff's department locate a car that'd been sunken to the bottom of a fishing pond.

Chopper 9 pilot Andy Holt and myself then landed the bird in a nearby clearing behind a church.  The locals came out of the woodwork to catch a glimpse of the black beauty known as Chopper 9.

That's when I met my new friend Charlie.  "Hey camera guy! You wanna borrow my 4wheeler?"

Yes Charlie, I do.  You bet your sweet camouflage GAP hoodie wearing tail I do.  TAKE ME TO THE POND!

And off we went.  Our ground crew was already on scene and I really wish I'd snapped a pic of the other news crews as I arrived with my new chauffeur.

Charlie then dropped me off a few feet from the skids of the chopper and we spent the better part of a couple hours hovering over this pond while crews pulled the sunken vehicle out.  On the way back to Charlotte we hovered over a coal power plant that's closing soon, and then landed on the city pad.

I found my first day as a daywalker ending with me editing an anchor package on airline mergers, and then I had a moment I won't soon forget.

Earlier this year, anchor Blair Miller and myself began working on a story called "Racing For Newtown".

We were recently awarded 1st Place in Sports Reporting by the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas.  It's my first award as a photog in Charlotte.

Blair was kind enough to pause for a moment before the 5 oclock news to snap a picture of the plaque with me.

So I'll end with this: if the fruit of over 2 years of laboring odd shifts and working erratic hours means life on the other side is like this... I can handle that.  I'm beyond grateful and thankful to finally be on a shift that allows me to see my wife at night, have weekends free to visit family, and hopefully, become a little more even tempered. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gender-NeutralHood of the Traveling Glass

In the 'tog eat 'tog world of TV news, we often tend to forget who our real allies often are: THE COMPETITION.  Now... if reading that suddenly makes you want to squeal like a dog trying to pass a peach kernel, move on along.... Nothing to see here.

If you really get what I'm talking about, then read on.

How many of us have bum rushed and gangnam styled an interview?  Who has lent another photog some batteries when theirs die?  Anyone ever let another shooter borrow a bnc connector?  Ever asked the other guy if he's done with his big gulp because you need an acceptable place to displace some urine?  I bet everyone has seen an OMB struggling to get a stand up out of the way and offered to shoot it for them.  We've all held someone else's mic during an interview.  We've all shared some juicy info at a crime scene.  We've all told each other the exact location to get the money shot, & for better or worse, regardless who signs our paychecks, we watch out for each other.

This isn't a man's world, and it isn't a woman's world.  It's a gender neutral world of creative minds that often go under appreciated.  Not everyone eats, sleeps, and breathes news, but I will admit this:  I'm often guilty of visiting the competing stations websites at the end of a long day to see how they did the same story I did.  It provides unspoken insight into the photog that shot it.  Was it NAT heavy?  Did they use alot of foreground?  Was there a method to it, or was it thrown together?  It might seem contrite, but knowing just exactly who is standing next to you in the scrum is essential.  So take the time and introduce yourself.  Tell them your name and your background.  You might be surprised with the outcome... there's some pretty cool people out there that push glass for a living. 

Heck, some of my best friends work at my professional competitors. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

JPaul Rising...

Every once in a while, someone in our business gets wise and crafts an exit strategy. 

Few people do it with the grace and class that my fellow photographer, and dare I say good friend, Jason Paul.

Known affectionately around the newsroom as "JPaul", he's quite literally been the back bone of countless breaking news events, special projects shoots, discussions about the prowess of Apple Products, and more importantly... talks about life.

Jason Paul and I share a special bond, because whether or not he'll admit it, that guy was beyond excited that I got hired at our shop.  I was his way out.  I took over the weekend mornings for him.  I've since moved on to a different shift and passed that torch to another unfortunate soul.  I digress...

The point of all this bravado is this:  Jason Paul is getting out.... And he's leaving on the highest note he can: As a special projects go to guy, with a Monday through Friday 9 to 6 schedule.  He's leaving with his head held high.  He's taking his talents a few short blocks down Tryon Street to the Charlotte Chamber.... A place I'm certain he'll thrive in.  I'm also certain he'll bore some poor soul to death explaining why Apple is, was, and always be the superior technology to Windows, Android, Linux, plain old paper and pencil, and anything else that Apple has an edge on in the field of tech gadgets.

All joking aside, JPaul is one of those rare people we get the privilege of working with on occasion.  One of those people that makes you better at your job, because of who they are, and how they work.  One of those people that no matter how frustrated they might be on any given day, you'd never know it.  Dude knows how to bite his lip and press on for the greater good.... A lesson and work ethic he's imparted on me in the last several months.

Hat's off JPaul... We'll miss you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Plague of Biblical Proportions

In what can only be described as an obvious sign from the universe that the Charlotte airport won't submit to an Airport Authority without a fight, the cosmos launched a full scale attack today.

And the hits just kept on coming...

Charlotte-Douglas International saw a swarm of bees ground a plane, a fire on a moving sidewalk, and a small gaggle of coyotes playing hopscotch along one of the runways... All within about 6 hours of one another. 

If this isn't a bad omen for the Airport Authority, I don't know what is... But I can tell you this:  if tomorrow it starts raining frogs, your friendly neighborhood cameraman is heading for the hills.  Ain't nobody got time for this.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Best Week Ever

This week actually wasn't the best week ever... That's where the irony kicks in, ya dig?

So with that disclaimer out there, you shouldn't read any further into this post with a serious mindset.  The claptrap I encountered this week was just too good not to share.

I suppose it all started about 25 miles outside of the fair city of Charlotte, along a small country road.  In a single wide trailer surrounded by caution tape... my best week ever began to take shape.

Now believe you me, I've been to my fair share of meth labs, but never... ever... ever, ever, ever, ever in a million years did I expect to be pulled away from babysitting a city bus stop to then being sent to the home of RANDY TRAVIS' BROTHER.

That's right! While the elder brother, real name Randy Traywick, is battling only God knows what, his little brother David Traywick is busy playing Breaking Bad: The Home Edition in some little shanty on the outskirts of Union Co.

And from the looks of the place, ol' Randy hasn't been too keen on sharing the wealth.  Maybe the lack of relationship is what has lead David to the cruel mistress know as methamphetamine? Who knows?! But I'm told that about 6 months ago he did set himself on fire whilst destroying some refuse of a spent meth lab. Top THAT.

While it was indeed the highlight of my best week ever, the above incident was not the only one.  Later the same day I would be encircled by a large group of bums while filling up my news vehicle who wanted to know "the scoop on the Trayvon Martin case."  Now, I'm a news man, but you couldn't pay me enough to comment on that topic with the company that welcomed me to pump #7 at the North Tryon St 7Eleven.  I know better.

My best week ever got even better when my reporter and I were assigned to a story concerning gangs.  Usually there's no video, and no sound, and honestly... there wasn't.  BUT!!! We did make our way through the seedy ghettos of Stanly County and met multiple rehabilitated residents who claimed to "know of" a gang, or who had "maybe seen a gang".  One guy even claimed to be "half and half", stating he was half Blood and half Crip.  I'm not sure how that works but clearly the Devil & God are raging inside this poor kid.  Let's all remember him in our prayers tonight.  (No, seriously... If you're the praying type, which I am, then do it. If not, then don't.  Either way it couldn't hurt... right?) We wrapped our day with the story on gangs, shortly after meeting a young man who had melted every incisor in his mouth, presumably by smoking some form of narcotic from a light bulb, and who was shaking uncontrollably.  He had to bail on our interview because he needed to fetch his "medicine".

My best week ever ended with visiting a couple of sink holes, before being sent up in the helicopter to shoot a dead body that had been found on the train tracks of a small Gaston County town, ala Stand By Me. I then landed in Charlotte and was sent via live truck to the exact spot I'd been hovering 1300 ft over just an hour before.  It was a sad story, the teenager had been struck by a train and killed.  The kicker is this: the kid was 100% deaf in one ear, only had 30% hearing in the other, and he was wearing ear buds and listening to music when the train hit him.  At the risk of sounding cold and contrite, you can't make this stuff up.

And honestly, these are the things you can expect when you tell the world what happens while they're at work.  Buy the ticket, take the ride.  Put in your work day and when the work is done, call it quits and take it to the shed.  It doesn't have to follow you home, it only happens to do so if you let it.


Thursday, June 20, 2013


"Hey! You there! With the signs, and the fliers, and the 5 people you've organized for this protest! Let's get this show on the road! I'm working a split shift today and my lunch is on the horizon just as soon as you spout a little propaganda and rhetoric in my direction!"

Those were the last thoughts to pass through my head just before the corner of a news vehicle lift gate passed through the starboard side of my skull.

Without even thinking, I'd gathered the elements I needed for a quick vosot and was putting my gear back into unit 60.  I reached to close the rear lift gate of the small SUV and shut it with the force necessary to ensure its proper closure.  What I had forgotten, was to step out from under the lift gate before attempting said closure.  And then it happened.

The lift gate connected with my head, I reached up, and my hand was immediately covered in blood.  In the distance, a gaggle of my brethren glass pushers were continuing to hear the grievances of some city workers who were attending this rally.  I was the first one to split and attempt an exit.

I simultaneously applied pressure with a paper towel, called my desk and my chief to alert them of the situation, called my wife, and drove myself to the hospital ER.

The latter of which I would catch a little flack for from the missus, but the government center is only about a mile from the closest hospital, so I drove myself.

Four hours later I was sporting a new fashion accessory, staples... 5 of them to be exact.  The doctor was probably the most redeeming element of this experience.  He was attentive, explained everything that he was going to do before he did it, and even seemed remorseful for making this grown man cry as he stapled my scalp shut.

My smoking hot wife was by my side throughout the entire process, and even took to social media to exploit my misfortune.  "That's very frankenstein-esque!" she would say shortly after McDreamy had finished riddling my head with some new hardware.

She would remind me later that she's now been to the ER with me 6 times, in 4 years, in 4 cities, in 2 different states. 

I guess it's safe to say at this point that I'm what you might call accident prone.  I just prefer to call it unlucky and believe that God has a special place in his heart for news photographers - specifically this one.  This isn't my first rodeo with ol' Form 19 - Workers Compensation Claim.  Remember the great dog bite debacle of 2010?

Either way, this is a heartfelt thank you to every single person who facebooked, tweeted, texted, sent a messenger pigeon, etc to check on me.  I do appreciate it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take a sponge shower and avoid getting my staples wet.  And if you don't know what a sponge shower is.... then I suggest you watch this.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Credit Hours...

At the risk of unemployment, I humbly submit for you dear reader, my assessment of indentured mentorship.

You see, there's a common plague sweeping newsrooms across the nation.  From market 250 to market 1... The summer intern.

They're everywhere...

Like a fresh crop of corn, like a new born breed of cattle, like silent daffodils dancing in the wind, like fawns learning to take their first steps... Every summer promises a new breed of young professionals with aspirations to be the next Diane Sawyer or Tom Brokaw.

It's here and now that I draw a line in the sand and take a page from the Lenslinger Institute and declare that we make a solemn vow to teach them exactly what a life in the news biz is all about.

Don't expect to be home on time.  Don't expect platitudes from your superiors.  Don't expect the glitz and glam of being "on camera".  Don't expect free meals everywhere you go... (That'll come, just learn to pick and choose and pitch the right stories.)

Do expect unlimited access to city officials, criminals, murderers, rapists, prostitutes, looky loos, the common "everyman", celebrities, not so celebrities, athletes, white trash, brown trash, green trash, blue trash, smelly trash, people who will make you smile with a simple sound bite, and above all... the adrenaline rush of it all.

News isn't about praise.  Take this job in search of it and you'll burn out quick. REAL QUICK.  But hang on for the long run... Put up with the pointless live shot at 11:15pm when you're an hour from home and dayside the next day, deal with the live truck giving you fits of computer rage because it's acting silly and won't transmit audio, anticipate a reel failing during a gubernatorial election, and maybe... just maybe... you'll find satisfaction in that one story you did during the week that makes it all worth while.

All the cable pulling.  All the setting up of lights.  All the anticipation of someone saying "Hey guy, nice job on last night's live shot".  It won't come...

We, tv news photographers, we do this job for ourselves and for the better of the station.  It's thankless. But at the end of the day, when the guy who signs the checks from carpet land passes you in the hall on the way to break room and pauses to acknowledge what you did that day, it's a feeling you will never forget.  If the GM knows who you are because of something you've shot and not because of how drunk you got at the holiday party, you're doing something right.

With all of this said phellow photog, I encourage you to muster some sense of humility and patience, and remember those people that gave you a break when you were attempting to enter this wicked world that we work in called "TV News".  For me, it was a seasoned vet in Wilmington who'd been laid off at our competition and took a job at our station just to provide health insurance to his kids.  You can't snub that kind of commitment, it's the very fiber of our being.

It's also found in mentors like Richard Adkins & Stewart Pittman. Seemingly old dudes who were reinvigorated for their craft by a young shooter with a passion for NAT sound usage, (yours truly).

So, in conclusion, as frustrating as it might be... work with that intern that shows promise.  Show them the way.  Teach them.  Nurture them.  Mold them.  Be honest with them.  Give them the details of the ups and downs.  Show them the way.

If not for yourself, then for the next generation.  We all know that news doesn't stop.  It's always happening, and we're just here for a season to tell the stories of the people we cover.  Don't take that responsibility lightly... But always remember to have a hell of alot of fun doing it....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I've encountered a lot of things while doing my job that the average person would find scary, terrifying, unnerving, and even grotesque.

I've seen countless dead bodies, violent car wrecks, used needles, bullet casings, bloody clothing, gun shot victims, stabbing victims, boat accident victims, maimed limbs, teeth on a sidewalk, prostitutes in their "element", public official meltdowns, and I've even been attacked by a dog while shooting a story. (I subsequently had to endure the entire series of rabies vaccines that followed said dog attack, but that's a story for another day.)

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me for the chance encounter I had this past Sunday - one that will forever be burned into my cerebral regions until the day I die.  While covering a fatal car accident, the frames of video between flashing lights and caution tape began to blur and I was growing weary.

My reporter and I had wrapped our live shot for 10 and were awaiting the 11 o'clock hit, when I sat down on a piece of curb in a vacant parking lot in one of Charlotte's fancier suburbs.  As I waxed poetic about my day on the phone to my smokin' hot wife, I heard a rustle in the leaves about 5 feet from me.  The soft glow of my gel covered omni lights caught the object in question just right - it's beady eyes shined like two freshly minted Lincoln head pennies in the beams of my 3 point lighting... It was hairy, it was ugly, and it looked like a 30 pound football with legs... It was a possum, and it hissed at me... loudly.

(Not the actual possum, but you get the idea)

What happened next is still a blur, and is quickly becoming the crux of an urban legend that's been retold in my neck of the woods, but all I remember is screaming like a 13 year old girl who'd just been dumped, running back towards my live truck - the longest 30 yards of my life - tripping over an extension cord, & having my reporter & my wife simultaneously request the cause of all my dismay.

Upon gathering my faculties, catching my breath, explaining myself to them both, and then checking my underwear, I paused and had a brief laugh at the whole incident.  But rest assured dear reader... This photographer will never, ever, ever ever ever ever ever, turn his back on a dimly lit church parking lot in Charlotte suburbia again.  You can bet good money on that.

And thank God I got those rabies vaccines when I did...

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Cart Before The Horse...

See that handsome news man with the perfectly quaffed side part?  That's none other than Scott Pelley.  He's the evening anchor for CBS's nightly newscast.

Pelley has enjoyed a decorated career in journalism, interviewed multiple US presidents, traveled the world, and was even named one of TV news most sexiest men of 2010.  (They obviously overlooked my submission.)


In September of last year he even traveled to the fair city of Charlotte and shared a urinal with some of my fellow queen city photographers over at the competition, before taking a break to address the local folks and impart a little wisdom.

Pelley was recently awarded the prestigious Fred Friendly First Amendment Award for "having shown courage and forthrightness in preserving the rights set forth in the First Amendment."  Now, to bring you up to speed on congressional history, the first amendment ensures among many other things... the freedom of the press.

And in what appeared to an obvious demonstration as to why he was the perfect candidate for the award this year, Pelley addressed his peers and delivered an empowering acceptance speech in which he called for greater oversight when delivering the news to the public.  He even owned up to his misgivings during the early moments of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Pelley then took aim at social media, acknowledging the significance of instant information but encouraging journalists near and far to be cautious before tweeting out speculation: "Twitter, Facebook and Reddit: that’s not journalism. That’s gossip. Journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip."

The most poignant dagger he tossed concerning accuracy seemed to be aimed not only at national news outlets, but local news crews across the nation: "How does it serve the public if we’re first? You know what first is all about? It’s vanity. It’s self-conceit. No one’s sitting at home watching 5 TV monitors saying, ‘Oh they were first!’ That’s a game that we play in our control rooms. Maybe a touch of humility would serve us better."

And I think he hit the nail on the head.... You can decide for yourself.  

The entire speech is here:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Breaking Down the 4th Wall

The term "the fourth wall" was made popular in the days of public theater.  A major character would break away from the action of the play to address the audience in an effort to add some comedic relief, helpful insight, or desperate introspection about an upcoming scene.

Modern day examples of this include, but aren't limited to Ferris in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", Zac Morris in "Saved By The Bell", JD Dorian in "Scrubs", & Francis Underwood in "House of Cards".

Hopefully these examples put into perspective what exactly it is that I'm talking about.  If not, Google them... they're worth a Google or two.

In the niche of television that I've carved out for myself, the argument could be made that we (tv news crews) break the fourth wall on a daily basis.  We introduce our stories and we tag them out.  We speak directly to the viewer.  We have complete and total control over the amount of information and emotion we inflect into our stories.  Television news performs more as a Greek Chorus than we'd often like to admit.

And as Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker in the movie Spiderman: "With great power, comes great responsibility."

It's my opinion that we often take for-granted the gravity our work carries.  I know I'm guilty of it.  

We rush into peoples lives at their most trying moments.  We ask them questions they don't want to answer. We ask them to recount, recall, and regurgitate horrific and painful moments when it's obvious they'd rather not.  We ask for a recent picture of their dearly departed and then whisk away in a live truck to some vacant parking lot to hurriedly arrange all the content we've just gathered.  We slap it together on a timeline, edit it together, feed it into the station, and begin pulling cable for the next live shot we're scheduled to have.

Often times it borders on exploitation, and unfortunately that seems to be business as usual on most days.  Usually, business is good.

The morality, the integrity, and more importantly, the humanity that we as journalists have, comes into play on a daily basis.  What we choose to do in those gut check moments, can make or break a story.  It can mean getting the interview we need.  I'd be lying if I sat here and claimed to have never been party to an outfit that bullied someone into talking on camera when it's obvious to anyone in a 3 mile radius, they'd rather not.

I started having those gut check moments.  I started asking myself questions like "What are we doing here?", "Why is this relevant?", "Why does this matter?", "Who cares, other than these people?", "Is this wrong? Is it right?"

I've covered alot of things in my short career.  I've told alot of stories.  I've seen police officers peal back crimson stained white sheets to reveal a fresh corpse for a mother so she can identify her dead.  I've followed the first lady around for 3 days in the September heat.  I've watched grown men weep on the steps of the World War II memorial.  I've seen paraplegics water ski.  I've followed Marines through a series of tolerance training.  I've put my lens 3 feet from John Edwards smiling mug as he walked into court to face federal charges.

I've offered kind words and platitudes to victims of great loss, and revelers of great success and joyous occasion.  

Nothing I've ever covered could've prepared me for the chance encounter I had with a lady named Ruth Stikeleather on Wednesday March 27, 2013.  

My reporter and I were assigned to take over a story from dayside and advance it for nightside.  The long and short of it was this: an 88 year old man had gone missing the day before when he left home to meet a former tenant of one of his rental properties, to give him some assistance with his broken down car.  That man's name was Lindsey Stikeleather.  His bride of 69 years was the lady I previously mentioned, Ruth.

We arrived at their house, and they welcomed us in.  One of our crews had been there earlier in the day, so when they saw our van pull up, they treated us like royalty.  We were invited in, given full access to pictures, the home, family members, got an interview with his daughter, and we met Ruth.  

She took my hand, looked me right in the eye and said "If he doesn't come home, I don't know what I'll do."  Call it a woman's intuition or what you will, but I'm almost certain poor Ruth already knew her husband's fate.  She didn't say "I hope he's ok", or "I know he's going to come walking in any minute."  She simply wanted him to be home.  (We would find out less than 18 hours later, Bobby Jackson, a man who was a former tenant of the Stikeleather's, had murdered Lindsey when he'd come to assist him with some automobile trouble.)

After I'd finished shooting and before we left, I saw Ruth sitting in their living room.  With dozens of family members around, she seemed to be alone, in her own little world almost... just sitting.  I sat my camera, tripod, and my gear bag down by the door and wandered over to where she was seated and knelt down.

"What is it young man?" she asked me.  "Mrs. Stikeleather", I said, "I don't have the right words to say to you, and I don't even know if it's appropriate or not for me to even say this, but I'm sorry you and your family are going through this.  For what it's worth ma'am, my wife and I will have you in our prayers tonight.  I hope they find Lindsey and he comes home where you want him."  The little old lady leaned down and hugged me, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and said "bless you child... bless you, and thank you."  As I exited that house and walked back to my live truck, I paused for a moment and said a silent prayer at the foot of their driveway for Ruth, Lindsey, and their entire family.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've teared up while performing the duties of my job, and this is at the top of the list.

Did I do the right thing? Maybe. Maybe not. I'd broken the fourth wall.  I put the camera down, stepped out of being a photographer, and stepped into being a human. 

Now please understand, I'm not writing of this instance to boast, or gloat, and I don't want to come off as arrogant.  I'm not pious and I'm not a holy roller.  I've been known to utter just as many four letter words while setting up a live shot, as I did when saying that prayer to myself at their house that day.

I just simply want it to serve as an example of leveraging what you do as a vocation, for impact.  Whether you're a Christian or not in this instance is irrelevant.  Offering a prayer for them was my method of choice in attempting to console this family in a moment of great distress.

The people we meet and interview are usually also our viewers.  They're real people, with real issues, and real problems, and real lives.  They bleed red and cry clear.  

It is my opinion that sometimes, turning the camera off, putting the reporter note book down, and talking to our "characters", can only make the story better.  It'll make it more personal.  You'll feel  a greater sense of ownership and responsibility to do the story justice.  You'll probably be better at your job as a result.

I know that meeting my wife changed and quite literally saved my life.  I think that's why this story hit me as hard as it did.  This poor woman would've been married to her husband, her great love, 70 years next month.  That milestone was taken from her.  That family was robbed of that celebration.

The least I could do was try my very best to not let the story of who her husband was, end up as 90 seconds of television, and then forgotten.  And I can only hope Ruth Stikeleather knows that she left as great of an impact on this photographer, as her husband so clearly left of the community he lived and served in.

Do yourself and your craft a favor today... Break the 4th wall down. You might be surprised with the outcome.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Peer Accountability...

At the risk of sounding smug, contrite, or any other myriad of adjectives that could be construed to make me sound like I'm tooting my own horn, I'm going to just put it out there: I challenge you to find any other profession more fraternal than that of a television news photographer.

For better or for worse, it is a family, and it has all of the characters:  the whiner, the complainer, the over zealous, the humble genius, the not so humble genius, the snitch, the rookie, the veteran, the young, the old, those waiting to be lead out to the pasture, the brothers and the sisters, in between them all... you have the simple, understood camaraderie that exists between any person charged with making television news for a living.

It can be seen in the candid pictures that news photographers often take with one another.

Like when your fellow glass pusher was nearly mowed down on live tv by a speeding vehicle that was more interested in the RF being transmitted on the side of the road, than with keeping within the boundries of the passenger lane on South Blvd.

Rest assured, your fellow lenslinger will be there to remind you to wear your safety vest the next time you're live near a busy intersection... And he just might make an awkward face in the background of the aforementioned picture.

The subtext all the while, being something like this: "Hey man, I saw your live shot last night. Close call.  Glad you're ok! Remember, if something in fact does happen to you, your wife will collect no life insurance if you aren't wearing this..."

And even that sentiment has further subtext... It's our passive way of acknowledging that one of our own almost became part of the general claptrap we cover.  It's a slightly sarcastic, passive and poignant way of acknowledging your brethren news maker encountered a real pill of circumstances while working.

It's quietly saying "I hope you're alright..." in the middle of the ready room, without actually muttering the words.

 For those slightly older members of my occupational breed, this type of interaction might take place as you quietly recall the glory days of tape to tape editing while you paddle down a central North Carolina rural river.

Either way, it doesn't matter as long as one thing is happening: you're having a conversation. 

Hazards of the TV news job aren't always limited to a run away sedan whose driver is attempting to text their ETA to the bar while driving...

What the general public probably doesn't realize is this: this job can take it's toll on a human being and their lives just like any other.  It isn't all glitz and glamor and shiny lights and fancy cams and "OH MY GOD! YOU'RE THAT MAN/WOMAN ON TV!!!"

Now, again... Not to equate my chosen profession to those that serve the public and save lives, but merely to serve as an example... When police officers and fire men encounter traumatic events at work, there is typically a network of counselors and advocates in place to discuss what they've seen and how it's affected them.  When EMTs have someone flat line on them before they can reach the hospital, an on sight counselor is typically at arms length to discuss the repercussions this might have on their work performance.  Call all of these networks "internal affairs", "trauma advocates", or what you will, they're there.

TV news crews don't have this.  We have our peers, our wives and husbands, and looming quietly over our heads... our next deadline.

What has infamously become known in our business as the "dead baby knock" is an act in which a news crew is expected to visit the home of someone you've never met, knock on their door, and in 3 minutes or less, convince them to go on camera and gush about the most recent tragedy they've experienced.  We've typically lifted their name and address from a police or incident report, and often show up unannounced.

Ever pressed a camera into the face of a fresh widow?  Ever back lit a mother whose estranged husband is accused of ramming her daughter's head into a 2 inch sheet of dry wall?  Ever had a homicide detective tell you "it's ok to get your shots here, just don't step on the evidence or the body."

Ever bent down to tie your shoe and notice a fresh, bullet ridden corpse just 6 feet from where you're kneeling?

News photographers don't have support groups.  They don't have on sight counselors to discuss with them how the events of the story they covered the night before might have kept them up for hours once they got home.  They don't have someone official around to ask, "Are you ok?".

We have our families, whom we generally try to spare from the sorted details of our latest encounter with doom and gloom, and we have each other.  We have those quiet two or three minutes while we're loading a light kit or a tripod into a live truck.  We have a quick exchange while we're moving our camera from an SUV to the cargo area of a satellite vehicle. 

We have those little sarcastic quips that no one else would understand, and if they over heard, would probably consider us to be callous, cold, and unfeeling.  And that just isn't true.

Ask any news photographer you know... The majority of us go home every night and hug our loved ones a little tighter, reflect quietly on the strangers who became familiar during the day, and prepare to do it all over again the next day.

And we do it all knowing that it's a thankless, often unrewarding duty.  And we look out for our own.  And many of us couldn't imagine ourselves doing anything different.

We create emotional moments, 90 seconds at a time.  Hours of work, for 90 seconds, and then it's forgotten. 

What could you do in 90 seconds?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Father's Eyes

When I lived in Wilmington, NC my wife and I were members of, and regular volunteers at Port City Community Church.

The main pastor Mike Ashcraft, used to tell us on a regular basis, that the biggest problem facing our city, our state, our country, and the next generation was the plight of fatherless children.

Children... boys and girls growing up without their father's present in the most formidable years, to teach the rights and wrongs of being contributing members of society.  This plight knows no prejudice.  It doesn't see skin color, economic circumstances, or even fear of responsibility.

When you do what I do for a living, you meet children all too often who have lost their father to either death or incarceration or sheer flight from responsibility.  Two days ago I was charged with covering a vigil for a man murdered in the neighborhood he was born and raised in.  I interviewed his pregnant girlfriend who openly discussed how she was on the phone with him the moment he was shot.  She heard his final breath and dieing scream for help.

Moments later I would meet the little beauty you see pictured above.  While unaware of her relationship to the late man pictured on her t shirt, the expression on her face as she read over the words scribed on that sign she is holding, simply captivated me.  

I cannot tell you how many of these vigils I've shot in my career.  I can't tell you how many hours I've recorded of family members mourning over the loss of a loved one.  I can't tell you how many widows I've interviewed.  I can't tell you how many fatherless children I've met.

What I can tell you is this, I'm one of the lucky ones.  From the moment I entered this world, my father has always been my biggest champion.

He gave me his name.  He made sure I always had a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in.  He made sure we always had food in the fridge.  He taught me how to shave.  He taught me about forgiveness.  He taught me how to accept God's grace and live by it.

He taught me to admit my mistakes and own up to them.  He taught me that the unconditional love of a good woman is hard to find, and something to truly cherish and never take for-granted.  He bought me my first car and my first camera.  He taught me how to be a man.

In the late 70's he met my mother.  A struggling single mom who could barely afford the bare necessities for my older brother.  He would go on to buy him shoes and clothes before he even looked at an engagement ring for my mom.

In his own selfless ways, he displayed compassion and generosity that I believe resides in me.

He made a 7 year old boy his son and married my mother on July 14, 1979.  He has always maintained that even though they aren't blood, Buck is his son as much as I am.

Growing up, the oldest of 3, in rural southeastern North Carolina on the shores of Lake Waccamaw, he began working at the age of 12 at a local grocery store.  He would take food in lieu of a paycheck so that his family would have food for the week to eat.  I carry this lesson of hard work in my heart and go back to it anytime I think I've had a tough day on the job.  He taught me that a strong work ethic pays off and that people do notice it.

My father and I haven't always had the most perfect relationship.  It got pretty rocky in my early  twenties, and we even went a while without speaking.

Through the grace of God, and an insistent mother whom I am quite thankful for, we got our relationship back and it has been better than ever.

I still seek my father's counsel on tough decisions, financial advice, how to handle rough situations at work, and oftentimes I just call him up to shoot the breeze.

Realizing your parents are real people with their own real world problems was one of the toughest pills I've ever swallowed, and also one of the most rewarding.  I've seen my father navigate just about every high and low a lifetime can see, and I've witnessed him come out a better husband, father, and friend on the other side.  I've seen him beat cancer.  I've seen his heart grow.

I know that there is hope for this next generation because in a world plagued by the lack of fathers, role models, and heroes I am truly one of the very lucky ones.  My story of redemption and reconnection with my own father is a true testament to that.

Superman doesn't always wear a cape.  Sometimes he wears a weathered Willie Nelson t shirt and has a beard.  Sometimes he looks just like you do. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kristy Rising...

The earliest memories I have of ever interacting with the woman who would one day become my wife date back to 2007.  Small market newsrooms are comprised of a handful of "veterans" just mailing it in, recent college graduates working erratic shifts and wearing a multitude of hats in an effort to prove themselves, and college drop outs who took a job as a PA because working in television "sounded cool". 

I'll let you guess which one I was.

I had Thursday night's off, and anyone who worked for my former employer knew that Thursday was $1 domestic draft night at Hell's Kitchen.  The morning show producer, then Kristy Ondo, could often be found having her dinner at what we affectionately referred to as "The Kitchen", on any given Thursday.  Kristy never imbibed on the watered down domestic brew, because as soon as she left our graces, she was headed to work.

Around her 3rd or 4th visit to The Kitchen on a Thursday, she was about to head out and I asked her where she was parked.  Upon hearing she'd cemented her little Honda in one of the seedier areas of downtown Wilmington, I offered to walk her to car, insisting that "chivalry wasn't dead".

And I was hooked....

Over the next couple of years, Kristy Ondo would become one of my dearest friends.  We'd share laughs, tears, secrets, flirtations, DVD copies of teen soap operas that were once filmed in Wilmington, long walks on the river front during our dinner break, hours upon end at the ocean's shore line at Wrightsville Beach, and every thing in between.

And then the summer of 2009 eventually rolled around.  Kristy Ondo informed me that her contract was about expire and that she would be looking for tv news jobs elsewhere.  Without hesitation I blurted out: "Well, before you leave... I'm going to kiss you."  "What?!?!", she replied.  And again I insisted, "Kristy... I can't let you leave without kissing you at least once.  It'll be one of those things I'll regret never doing."

And a couple weeks later, I made good on my threat to plant one on her.  In the middle of what was probably the worst thunder storm of the summer, we found ourselves stranded in a lifeguard stand on Wrightsville Beach with a couple of luke warm Bud Light Limes.  I told her "I'm not wasting this kind of natural atmosphere.", and I went for it.  It must have done the trick, because she didn't move and she signed a contract extension the following week.

On March 6, 2010 I asked her to be my wife and she said yes.  On September 4th, 2010 we were married in Southport, NC, and she became Kristy Etheridge.

We continued to work together at the same station in Wilmington, and if I knew then what I know now, I would have never taken a single second for-granted when I had the opportunity to work with her as her photographer.

In June of 2011, I accepted a job in Charlotte as a photographer at the #1 station in the market.

To put this into perspective, I was moving from working as a rookie at the #1 station in the town that had quite literally, made me... to the #1 station in the town of my birth.

It was a news junkie's dream come true.

Only a couple of weeks after I accepted my position, Kristy was offered a job at the sister station of the one we'd worked at in Wilmington.

Our life was beginning to take shape...

We found ourselves in Charlotte in August 2011, working for competitors, and eventually feeling the overwhelming shift in market sizes.

We would both come to excel in our roles.  Kristy would quickly come into her own as a reporter in a top 25 market, and would gain respect and notoriety from her peers, as someone who went above and beyond to do her very best, and as someone who made her stories "human."

She also became known as someone who knew how to not take herself too seriously.  Someone who was good at her job, and did it with integrity, but also knew how to enjoy the grind we all ride, along the way.

Her contagious smile would ignite viewers to email her praise, and on occasion, inquisition about the type of shoes she was wearing.  (A story for another day.)

In the following months, Kristy and I decided we would take mission trip to Guatemala. What happened there changed both our lives, but for Kristy, it stirred a longing and a call she had felt for sometime to do something different with her career. 

Through continued months of prayer, meditation, and quietly listening to what we believe as a couple to be God's call to her, she found a new job opportunity.  On March 5th, after almost six years in the TV news business, my sweet, smokin' hot wife will be making an exit from the lights and cameras and taking a job an internet writer / copy editor at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, the BGEA.

Kristy has always said that the only thing she likes more than being my wife, or being on TV, is writing.  And she's pretty darn good at it.  And I could not be more proud of her.  This leap of faith, and step outside of her comfort zone, is one I only wish I had the guts to take.

Please join me in celebrating with her, in cheering her on, and in being inspired by the soul she possesses.  One that doesn't back down from a challenge.  One that faces fear and uncertainty with assurance that she is protected.  A soul that is truly one of the good ones.

And if it doesn't work out, I'm sure she can always reenter the world of news.

Her former co-anchor would probably vouch for her in a pinch.

Love ya toots...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Something to Someone

Rarely do I have the pleasure of working the dayside shift on a Sunday, but today I traded shifts with another photog at my shop in order to watch tonight's broadcast of the 2013 WWE Royal Rumble with a group of my brethren news makers.  Please excuse that and immediately dismiss it without passing any judgement on me.  Thank you in advance.

Today's story was a toss up - it could go in one of several directions, all of which ended with us doing a live shot at 6, just one block away from where a father of five lost his life to the barrel of a gun.

We had the overnight video.  We had the interview from the sheriff's department.  We had the nuts and bolts.  What we needed was the blue print of the design.  Who was this man? What was his name? What skeletons did he have in his closet?  Why did this even happen?

Reporter Catherine Bilkey and I arrived to the scene of the crime around 10:30am - A small ranch style brick home, resting about thirty yards off of a narrow road in rural York County, South Carolina.  The detectives were still conducting their investigation, and the quiet breeze bounced the yellow caution tape they had roped the property off with.

We found a place to park and I unloaded my gear.  I popped off about ten wallpaper shots to cover the package for later and then we saw her - this dead man's fiancé.  Upon our initial approach, one of the detectives advised that it wasn't a good time.  We obliged and I held back as Catherine approached and offered condolences, all genuine, but also in an effort to persuade her into talking to us.  She wasn't ready...

We found a neighbor who offered some insight as to what may have led to the shooting, and he indeed confirmed our suspicions: this was likely the product of some sort of illegal activity gone wrong.

We did our noon live vo/sot and drove into town to find some lunch and proper plumbing and then returned.  And there she was again.  Just standing along the side of the road, inches from the caution tape, staring... At what I'm not quite sure, but we decided to give it another try, and this time she obliged our request to find out who this man was - to put a face with his name and not just chalk him up to another statistic.

Her name is Channon Forte and her recently deceased fiancé's name was Shannon Jenkins.  The man who shot and killed Shannon is Vincent Bratton.  We didn't probe into the specifics of how this happened, or exactly for what reason.  It wasn't imperative to the story we were trying to tell today - his story.

In a compassionate fashion, Catherine just asked Channon: "just tell me about him", "what was he like?", "what's going on in your mind right now?", "how are you doing?".

Surprisingly enough, she opened up with one liners that news junkies dream of.  With tears in her eyes she choked out things like ""Our son just turned 2 in November. How am I going to explain to my kids that their father is not here?" - "He loved his kids, He didn't deserve this." - "From the day we met, day one, I knew that he was the one."

We thanked her for talking with us and she had promised to email a photo or two of Shannon to us in the following hours.  We parked the truck in our live locale, about a half mile round trip from where the crime had occurred, and as Catherine began logging the interview and writing her script I worked to establish our live signal and just kept mulling over the whole conversation we'd had with her.

Had Shannon been involved in some unsavory activity? Maybe, who knows? We didn't, and I'm thankful for that.  It would have taken away from the raw emotion we'd captured by clouding it with speculation as to what might have been the cause for the shooting.

I worked on editing the package and as I pieced it together, we had all the elements: scene video, neighbor sound, sound with the fiancé - but as I watched this woman cry and weep over her loss, something was missing.  We needed to see who this man was.  Without a word, I grabbed my camera and exited the live truck and hiked my way back to the house where a gaggle of mourning family members had begun to gather.

Channon greeted me and I apologized for interrupting her unfortunate reunion with family, but asked again for the picture.  She'd forgotten, and I can't find any cause for blame there.  Emailing a picture of your recently deceased to an insistent news crew would be the last thing on my mind if I were in her shoes.

She found one for me and I shot it off her phone and returned to the truck to finish editing the story.  Between clips of her tearful sobs, I edited in Shannon's picture and left it up for quite a while.  We concluded the story with a plea from his fiancé: "Turn yourself in..."

Now, in my own naive little world, I'd like to think that maybe our story helped in that, because we found out that shortly after it aired, Vincent Bratton turned himself into the York Co. Sheriff's department.

I'm certain it's just coincidence, but amid the tragedy of today's story, I'm proud of the job we did.  It might appear to some that we just followed the cookie cutter, "that's what you're supposed to do" method of putting together a story like this - but for me, it was a little different.

This woman was gracious enough to give us seven minutes of her time on what is arguably the worst day of her life, and I felt compelled to do the story justice.  To go above and beyond the status quo and inflect some real emotion, into an otherwise typical story, that sadly... I am all to familiar with shooting.

You can view the story here.

Something was different about today and I can't quite put my finger on it, but I do know this: meeting Channon Forte reminded me that everyone is something to someone.  Shannon Jenkins was her something: her fiancé, her provider, the father of her children, her great love.  You cannot watch this story without that kind of emotion and sincerity piercing you in some little way.

Today I learned something about myself as a journalist, but more so, as a person:  the grind we ride hasn't completely hardened me.  I can still feel a little, and those feelings stir an urgency in me to do a story justice when it's otherwise doomed to become just another ninety seconds of television.  I suppose I can thank Channon for that...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Respect Your Elders...

There's a question I ask my self every time I load my fancy cam, light kit, tripod, and various other pieces of gear necessary to make television, into the vacant abyss of a live truck: "Why do I do this?"

The truth is, there is no simple answer.  Sure, I need health insurance.  A steady paycheck is pretty nice.  Unlimited access to local politicians? - Not so exciting, but stick with me for a moment...  I'm going somewhere with this.

My job is different than any other on the planet.  I meet new people every day.  Sometimes, it's on the best day of their life, and sometimes... it's on their worst.  News photographers stick their lenses in the faces of perfect strangers and quietly record history.  It might not be yours or theirs, but it is someones history.  It's a delicate science that even the most decorated scholar couldn't master without years of practice and perfection.  It's an art I will forever be perfecting.

Have you ever pinned a microphone on a mother who just lost her third child to gang violence?  Have you ever asked a homeless guy how he plans to keep warm when the temperature dips below 32 degrees tonight?  Ever wiped fresh soot out of your eyes while a home continues to smolder in the back ground of an interview you're about to conduct with the owner?  These are all things I've done - in just the last six months.

Between the sirens, crime scene tape, flashing lights, and general calamity of the daily grind we ride, we seek moments.  That 10 or 15 seconds you know you've just captured, and you know that it is pure gold in the eyes of the news gods.  For even the most self indulgent of my breed, it's a ego stroke that will surely carry you through the next scene of claptrap that will surely befall you - but that's not the point.  Not even close.

These moments should affect us in a deeper way.  It should make us better.  It should leave us asking ourselves "what about this can make me better at my job, and more importantly, a better human being?"

Now, the following list of guys will inevitably give me a good ration of crap for this next line, but this particular rant wouldn't be complete without it.  These veteran photographers, these seasoned lenslingers, these guys who have been doing it alot longer than I have, these elder brethren of mine... have somewhat managed to master this fine art of tv news photography, and each in their own way. 

Exhibit A: Leighton Grant

He's the chief photographer at my stations' main competitor, and arguably the best friend I have in Charlotte.  He once asked me a question that continually sticks with me: "When is the last time you cried in your viewfinder?"

The implied lesson being that if it's an emotional story, it should move you.  You should be doing more than just hitting record when you interview a person who has just experienced a great loss.  You should regard them speaking to you as an honor.
Exhibit B: Rick Portier

The self proclaimed "turd polisher" is a guy I haven't ever met personally, but in keeping up with his social media rants and recent vow to only post positive updates, it's obvious that the guy has an unbridled passion for what he does for a living.

So much so that he recently published a 300 page novel entitled "Shooter in the Crosshairs".  It's an awesome read. I highly recommend it.

Exhibit C: Stewart Pittman

When the aptly named "lenslinger" isn't rubbing elbows with the folks from American Idol, transmitting RF around the triad, or tossing back Jack & Coke's with yours truly, he takes a break and writes some of the most insightful photog fodder you've ever laid eyes on

It's an amazing juxtaposition of scathing sarcasm for the business and raw, personal humanity.  It's a true look at how to NOT let the business break you.
Exhibit D:  Richard Adkins

"RAD" as he's known among his peers, has basically been my mentor for the last few years.  His lessons on the business, the daily grind, shooting and editing, and maintaining sanity while navigating the world of TV news have been invaluable and have shaped the way I approach each day at work.

So what do these four camera jockey's have in common?  They have each, and in their own way, contributed to the answer to my aforementioned question: "Why do I do this?"

Through their own work and lives, they've demonstrated that conditioning and patience is key if you're expecting to make it long term in this business.  They've shown this photog that our jobs are coveted for irrational reasons, but that we should never forget why we started pushing glass in the first place: the people.

So why do I do this? I do it because it reminds me that there is life outside my viewfinder, that there is life outside of my own little world.