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.