Call me "Lenslinger."  Stewart Pittman, WGHP

Call me "Lenslinger." Stewart Pittman, WGHP

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.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

4 thoughts on “Lenslinger

  1. Mike Daly

    In the last few years at WAGA, it was hard to answer the page that said, “Come in early” because of the meatball news lineup of teenage car fatals and apartment fires. But, as a photog, you had to shoot these stories and find a way to separate yourself from the amateurs. That became harder to do when being slung from one story to the next over and over each day, all to have it thrown out the window because someone’s chimney was struck by lightning in the late afternoon.
    Looking forward to reading Viewfinder Blues and hoping Mr. Pittman knows how lucky he is to work with Karen Koutsky.
    When Karen was the assignment editor at WAGA, there were Friday nights where she had to send a crew to cover something late. There was no overnight team for Saturday Morning, so the crew was sort of out there on their own.
    I walked in to the station to drop off a house fire tape at 2 oclock on a Saturday morning. Karen had sent us to cover it earlier. She was still in the building when we returned.
    “Why are you still here?” I asked.
    “I don’t leave until I know my crews are back safely,” she said.

  2. scott hedeen

    “compulsion to suppress”

    saw alot of that in my news life. it really made me feel like i worked for a “news team”. “us vs. them” mentality never made for a great work place feel.

    it’s funny that LAF linked to WXIA as a station that is phasing out photogs. it’s a hard pill to swallow to see my former place of employment dismantle it’s photographic achievements. in the world of HD and more and more ways to move video to the viewer…you’d think the photographer would be stronger than ever.

  3. polly from NY

    i love doug richards! oops. did anyone see that? ahem. “live from new york, i’m polly kreisman, stretching the boundaries of live apartment fire to places it should really be seen. back to you.”

  4. Pingback: Fair and white balanced « live apartment fire

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