TV news photographers don’t get enough credit. At some stations, they’re absurdly underpaid. At other stations, they’re being phased out. Yet they are the essence of TV newsgathering. “Without us, you’d be watching radio.” They like to say stuff like that. They are often multi-talented. Many are voracious readers. Some are gifted painters and folk artists. Some can write a script better than the TV reporter sitting next to them.
Clearly, one such photog is a guy named Stewart Pittman of WGHP in High Point NC. Since 2004, Pittman has written a blog called Viewfinder Blues. His posts are frequently day-of diaries of his life as a TV news guy. He recently posted this video, which shows him and his camera getting dunked by a hurricane in 1994 (which he contrasts with Geraldo Rivera’s now-somewhat-famous dunk during Ike. Of Rivera, Pittman writes: “Hell, I’ve used drive-thru wet-naps with more accumulated moisture!”)
Unlike the reporter blogs you find on local TV station web sites, Pittman mostly doesn’t sugarcoat his view of the inside. He’s found the fine line between job security and drop-dead honesty, and walks it skillfully. Here’s his take on the morning editorial meeting:
(It’s) my least favorite part of the day. Why? Oh, I dunno – that feeling of utter helplessness as some former intern pitches his opinion of how I should spend my day…that trapped-gas sensation in my lower abdomen as some producer eyeballs me while recounting the wino revival she passed on the way to work …the rising bile in the back of my throat as an indifferent manager banishes me to twelve hours in a far flung live truck with the flick of his well-oiled Sharpie. Yeah, most days I’d rather take a two-by-four to the face than watch my immediate fate ricochet around a small conference room.
There are plenty of newsrooms whose bossfolk wouldn’t allow such subversion. But it just happens that Pittman works in a newsroom headed by Karen Koutsky. When she worked at WAGA more than a decade ago, Koutsky was well respected and destined for (what passes for) greatness in the world of TV news. The fact that she doesn’t suppress Pittman’s mojo indicates that, even though she’s the VP of a medium-market newsroom, she hasn’t completely developed a taste for the Kool-Aid®. Good for her.
It’s actually quite remarkable, the compulsion to suppress. It’s as if the higher-ups in certain TV newsrooms know that their foolishness doesn’t withstand analysis. Therefore, they suppress it. The fact that Race Bannon won’t write under his/her real name says it all. This, in an industry that likes to posture about freedom of expression — when it’s convenient for the production of the commercial product only.
We rant. There’s a link to Viewfinder Blues to the right. You are urged to click it often.