Recently, an Atlanta TV reporter told me that she had been offered a job in Washington DC. She said she was interested in the market — Our Nation’s Capital has some uniquely intriguing qualities, certainly — but she declined the job and opted to sign another contract in Atlanta.
“They wanted me to shoot my own stuff!” she lamented.
No doubt, that Washington TV station had a large stack of resumés from applicants. Perhaps more than a few of them were from reporters eager to be one-man-bands in the nation’s eighth largest market.
I suspect my employer, WXIA-TV, has plenty of applicants for reporter positions. With few exceptions, our new reporters are introduced as “multimedia journalists,” or backpack journalists or one-man-bands.
In March, Lionel Moise produced a behind-the-scenes piece on Blayne Alexander, a one-woman band hired a year ago out of Augusta, Georgia. Blayne is smart, sturdy, hard-working and is extraordinarily blessed with natural talent. I fully expect her to leapfrog the rest of us, career-wise, by the time she’s 30. And I’m not kidding.
No pressure, kid.
Given Blayne’s relentlessly (and authentically) cheery disposition, the question might be: Why would one balk at becoming a one-man-band?
What, are you afraid of a little hard work?
WSB and WAGA have resisted hiring one-man-bands, apparently concluding that a) day-to-day TV news coverage in Atlanta requires a team performing specialized functions, and b) America’s ninth-largest market can still support two-person crews. When Blayne goes solo out into the world, she encounters competitors who typically bring two-person crews to their stories.
Blayne and numerous other one-man-bands from WXIA and WGCL show this conclusion isn’t ironclad. Many of them, like Julie Wolfe, Jerry Carnes and Matt Pearl, show that one-man-bands can shoot and edit lovely, stylish stories.
Perhaps those of us accustomed to the specialized work of two-person crews are spoiled. In two-person crews, reporters are able to work the editorial content of stories (and schmooze newsmakers) while photographers handle armloads of gear.
Reporters in two-person crews can use the internet, make phone calls, fact-check and access contrary viewpoints while photographers safely drive vehicles from point A to points B, C and D.
Reporters in two-person crews can write (and sometimes even edit) stories in transit as a photographer drives. Note the moment in the above video at 1:47. Blayne isn’t the only MMJ out there who manages to write and drive at the same time.
There are many stories that are well-suited for one-man-bands. They tend to be controlled, less news-y, less competitive, more one-stop.
There are also many instances where it makes sense for reporters to edit their own stories. If the reporter is with a photographer, and there’s material that has to be shot close to deadline, the reporter needs to be capable of deadline editing. Any reporter who can’t edit is very handicapped.
Likewise, a reporter ought to be able to shoot.
Perhaps one-man-bands are, in fact, the future of local TV news in Atlanta. Certainly, those who manage TV station payrolls want to believe it. As a reader calling himself Savannah Bob pointedly commented on this blog recently: “It’s a good thing I’m not your boss. I’d trade you for three MMJs and a cheap camera.”
But WXIA-TV just hired a photographer, an actual shooter from Asheville. It’s a very, very encouraging development.