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: