Monday, December 21, 2015

The View From Here

I'll be honest, I had all but given up on this thing. It had become something of a time capsule to me. A way to go back and look at the former life I used to live as a TV news photographer. Sometimes that's fun. Sometimes it isn't. Most of the time I completely forget that I cataloged my television misgivings. I digress.

These days, life is different & it's rich. The last year & a half has undoubtedly been the most personally trying time I have ever experienced in my 32 years on this planet. But it brought me to where I am now, writing this. And in just under a month, I'll be a dad. THAT. IS. CRAZY. And it's terrifying. But it's also very exciting. The only thing I can recall anticipating as much as the arrival of my son, is the day I married my wife.

It's crazy to me to go back and read these tales of claptrap and calamity I once wove. It blows my mind that people still read it from time to time. (Or according to the monthly report I get, people still read it!)

Life is certainly different than it was when I updated this thing regularly. In less than about 8 months, I'll be a college graduate for the 2nd time. I'll be a dad for the first time in less than 4 weeks! And I continue to try everyday to be a better husband and me, for all time.

Sure, there's a life I once lived behind a TV news camera that Noah will never really get to see first hand... But I left a pretty decent trail of breadcrumbs in this thing.

But truthfully, I know one thing is for certain: I've spent & continue to spend a good majority of my life behind a camera. I've seen countless events unfold through the fuzzy screen of a view finder. This sweet little boy's life won't be one of them...

I can't count how many times someone has said "That'll be the most photographed child ever!" Wrong.

Photographs of my child will be of the highest quality and composition, but they won't be the highest in volume. You see, I intend to take 3 times as many mental snapshots, as I do real ones.

After all... I want this kid to call me "Daddy" not Canon.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Creatures of Indecision

"My wife & children seem to like me quite a bit, and as long as that is true, I'm really OK." 
-Brian Williams

I know it's been 161 days since my last post but indulge me for a moment, won't you?

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard something about this debacle that B Dubs has found himself in. I still don't entirely understand all of the discrepancies that surround his story about the helicopter attack. I know that the long and short of it has to do with his claiming one thing happened, when in actuality, a totally different thing happened. And that's where his credibility bit the bullet.

The foundation of journalism is forged in credibility, trust, accountability, & accuracy. B Dubs has obviously been a little cavalier with his account of what took place in Iraq, and in doing so, has called himself into question over a number of other major events he has covered. And, at least for the time being, he's cost himself a job.

I can't help but wonder how this would have played out in a pre social media world. Twitter & Facebook ignited a fire storm of retweeting, sharing, and so on. It literally fueled the conversation. Suddenly the nation's most beloved news man had found himself as the lead story.

Brian Williams is a guy you like. He's a guy you want to like & believe the best in. And this situation is just sad.

The saddest part for me, as a fan of B Dubs and a former news shooter, is the way it's been responded to on social media.

It's easy to become a pious deputy of the journalistic morality police from the seat of a busted rolling chair in a windowless newsroom when you're taking a break from stacking your 30 minutes of infotainment to check Twitter & catch up on the latest crap you decide to read to distract yourself  from the fact that you're really questioning your chosen career path, isn't it?

Now let me be perfectly clear, I do not believe that all news people are the same. I believe that there are many more good eggs than there are bad. That said, I don't think you'll find a more cannibalistic tribe than some select members of the news industry.

To vent your frustrations over this blowout via social media is one thing. To comment about a man who made a mistake, albeit a life altering one, as if you've never, ever screwed up in your life or your career is disgusting.

Having recently become intimately familiar with screwing up, and also knowing all too well that this very blog I write is sometimes seen as a ride on my high horse, I freely admit that I'm just as guilty as every other news schmuck who decided to cast judgment on Mr. Williams.

My point is this: if you're going to publicly shame someone in 140 characters or less, at least check your own closet for skeletons before casting the first stone.

End rant.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I had no clue whatsoever that June 12, 2014 would be the last live shot I would ever run for Channel 9.

All I knew was that the only thing that stood between my 17-day European vacation with my wife was 4.5 hours of live hits from the government center.

What would unfold over the next three weeks would dramatically change my life... And it would be a change for the better.

I slowly found I would never be the same.

I boarded a plane to Toronto, then another to Dublin, and then another to Warsaw to meet the sweetest woman in the world.
From Warsaw we would spend the next 4 days at the BGEA Festival of Hope.

Kristy had to work, and while I was there I figured I'd offer up my services to the video team as a volunteer as they gathered interviews and b-roll.

For a couple of days I watched and took instruction and witnessed the life changing decisions that hundreds, if not thousands of people made as they decided to enter into a relationship with Christ.

The experience would forever change me.  It would give me a broader view of the world.  It would give me insight into the desperate longing that human beings have for relationship with their creator.

It would awaken a stirring in me that wanted to use my talents and gifts for more than just the daily grind of television news.

Once again, I would be reminded that I was being molded and changed for a new experience.

The next two weeks after our time in Warsaw would find my sweet wife & me traveling to Barcelona, Paris, London, Cambridge, Oxford, Orpington, back to Dublin, and then home to Charlotte.  The experiences we had and the memories we made will serve a lifetime, but what really stands out to me are the ways in which our marriage was strengthened.
We would go on to visit the beaches in Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

We would have coffee while walking the same sidewalks as countless artists, poets, and figures of history.

It was the most romantic two weeks of my life, and I got to spend it with my best friend.

We made a ton of memories and had our own share of bumps in the road.

The most glaringly obvious of which would be when I dislocated my shoulder while exiting the London underground while en route to second row seats to see The Mouse Trap.

Through it all, my sweet wife was by my side and encouraged and helped every step of the way.

Again, I noticed that something bigger was in charge here as we were met with strangers who carried my bags, Irishmen who offered assistance, and the general good nature of human beings stood stage front in this spectacle of ours.

Arriving back in Charlotte would find me in need of repair of my shoulder for the four years I'd spent putting it off.

I had arthroscopic surgery on July 24, 2014 to repair all the damage that my left shoulder had endured due to my neglect.

Again, the sweetest gal in the world would be by my side... Helping, lifting, bringing me food, helping me clean myself up.

The phone calls, cards, emails, text and Facebook messages flooded in.  Coworkers of my sweet wife would join forces to make sure we didn't need to prepare a meal for nearly two weeks.  The fridge was stocked to the brim.  We had gift cards for restaurants when we didn't feel like tampering with tupperware and the microwave.

I was, am, and continue to be overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from friends and family and strangers who showed us compassion.

The weeks that followed my surgery would find us with several unique opportunities.  We had time together.  We had time to just sit and be still and think and pray and ponder, and above all else, to give thanks.

And then a phone call came from an unusual number, and on the other end of the line was someone who wanted to talk to me about a job.

The weeks that followed would find me moving from having my arm immobilized, to a job interview, to starting physical therapy, and to leaving the only job related constant I've known for almost ten years... Television.

After a couple of weeks of prayer, over thinking, under thinking, pondering, getting angry, cursing, giving praise, crying, laughing, feeling worthless, feeling restored, and seeking counsel from people I feel are knowledgeable, I made the decision to leave television news.

With a minimum of six weeks of physical therapy left to gain full use of my shoulder again, I submitted my resignation to Channel 9 yesterday.  When I entered the building I was overcome with emotion.  I was anxious, fearful, and scared.

What I was met with from my managers was an outpouring of support for my decisions, and a keen understanding that someone in my position has a decision to make.  And I made it.

I accepted the job offer to join the communications team at Wingate University.  I'll be splitting my time between working social media and updating the web site, with shooting, writing, and editing stories for their campus television station.  I'll even get the task I've longed for for quite some time, mentoring.  I'll be able to talk with and guide students who want to enter TV news as a career.  I won't be standing up in front of a class, so you can all save the "Professor Etheridge" jokes that've been pouring in since this announcement.

I can only end with this: my life is not unique, and I hope my self indulgent writing has never given that implication.  I am simply a man who has surrendered to the call of my Creator, sought Him in earnest desperation, and responded to the choices I have been given.

This entire process of a European vacation, to returning home and taking leave, to surgery and continuing recovery, to finding and accepting a new job have not been by any of my own doing.  They've simply been the orchestration of a power higher than I am, that far exceeds my own understanding.  In todays day and age, it is cliche... but I can write this in honesty and tell you: To God be the glory.

There are two constants in my life that I strive to live by.  The first is that I have surrendered to a life that isn't my own.  I'm simply a vessel of reflection to the One that made me.  I try to assign all acknowledgment of good things and praise for blessings to Him.  The second is that I married way out of my league.  My wife is the most beautiful and treasured person I have the privilege of knowing.  Getting to spend life with her is proof that God loves me and wants good and great things for my life.

My cup runneth over...

"God of mercy, sweet love of mine.  I have surrendered to Your design.  May this offering stretch across the skies, and these 'hallelujahs' be multiplied." -Needtobreathe

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Become Original

You may or may not have noticed, that I've basically been silent here for almost 6 months.

No snarky, biting or cynical quips of insight into the depraved mind of a man who commits television for a living. 

No insistent reassurances that what we're doing for a paycheck directly affects the cosmos.

No signs of remorse for acts carried out when one pushes glass for a living.


When I started this thing almost two years ago, I had no idea what type of monster I was creating - both in this blog, and in myself.

I didn't honestly think anyone would legitimately read about the crap that goes through my head while I'm at work.  I didn't imagine anyone would become upset if I ever stopped.

And I did stop...  I took a writing hiatus after my last post at Christmas.  Whether or not it was a conscious decision to stop writing remains to be revealed, even to me.  But I knew that with the coming New Year, the amount of time over the holidays I'd worked, and the crippling self introspection I tend to have, it was time to take a hiatus.

I had quite honestly become obsessed with news, and more over, with being a news photographer.  I let my job become my identity.  I became fixated on getting my story right and doing it my way.  I'd stay up late to watch the 10 & 11.  I'd catch the A block on the weekends... and this eventually ruined the facets of this job that I love so dearly.  

A week after I posted my last blog back in December, a series of events unfolded as I sat quietly in the back seat of an SUV while it wandered through the winding roads of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  My entire perception of our profession was flipped on its head.  If you want the rest of the story, find me and ask me in person... (In the business, we call that a stealth tease!)

And in the coming weeks and months, I would begin to rediscover myself, both professionally and personally.  Sure, I'm a news photographer... but that does not define me. 

I'm a lot of things.  I'm a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and an aspiring amateur chef.  I've worked production on a nationally televised teen soap opera.  I used to be a lumberjack.  My first job was waiting tables.  I look just like my dad did when he was my age.  I didn't have a bank account until I got married.  I've only been clean shaven 4 times in 10 years. 

If that laundry list seems gratuitous, I assure you that writing it was more for my benefit than yours.  The moral of the story is this, kids: it's easy to become entrenched in this business and let it consume you. But it will only do so, if you allow it to.

C.S. Lewis said, "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

And I think that is what I've been doing the last 6 months or so.  Slowly becoming original.  Not writing about work.  Not becoming entrenched in it.  Not allowing my occupation to determine my level of happiness.  

It's a job, and alot of times it can be a damn fun one to have.  But it's not everything.  It's simply the machine that allows you to do everything else that makes you happy.

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?