From my experience, there are NO dumb questions in news. Not unless you count these. Anybody who spent any time working in the TV news biz has a few “humdingers” they can remember. Below are a few I actually witnessed.
1. “What was the first thing that went through your mind?” asked to a farm accident victim who was impaled by a combine thresher thru the skull.
2. REPORTER (during a homicide suspect perp walk): “Police say you killed your children.”….
SUSPECT…”No! I won’t say that!”
“Police” sounds like “please”… funny.. yes… but the news industry is not that far away from begging for on air confessions.
3. “Can you please hold the picture still?” from a WAGA photog to a woman holding a picture of her murdered child. Upset… she was showing a picture she carried with her all the time of her daughter… confronted in front of a deadline addled TV crew… crying… she holds the picture out in her trembling hands. I zoom in… hold the shot for 5 secs and pan up to get the facial expression of the woman. The reporter I’m with gets that….but before we could tap into the emotion of the situation… here…goes the cameraman mentioned above.
“Hold it steady!!! Please!!” The woman then pulls back and her husband grabs her and pulls her away.
Then…all eyes turn to the WAGA photographer.
“Are you a complete jerk?”
“You’d think you’d know what you’re doing?!”
He, like I saw on so many occasions, spouted a tirade of how he couldn’t get a still grab… or a good shot for the graphics.. blaming everyone..but himself.
This one sits with me to this day… the ability for “check out” mentally just to get a steady shot for the news. I’ve seen some stupid stuff done by field crews in the name of the “Looming Deadline” before, but this was pretty bad. The pressures of making slot should always weigh heavy on the minds of any field crew. It’s a clock driven game only with NO timeouts so stupidity tends to run rampant. I’m sure I acted in haste on many occasions but this was not even close to being a smart move.
The lack of decency in newsrooms on deadlines was something that made me lose a good bit of sleep over the years.
The lack of mental separation when it came to getting a great shot, pleasing a supervisor or winning an award was something that I never liked. I played the award game in the NPPA (Nat’l Press Photograghers Association) and in the regional Emmys, I got an ego boost for each time I won. These plaques and statues have now been moved off the mantle to a closet to make room for pictures and other mementos that in the long run will mean alot more than “making slot” 15 years ago.
So… Stupid questions, honest and thought out, can happen and will happen. There’s someone like you on the other side of the viewfinder or microphone so try and at least think before you speak.
DISCLAIMER. I left TV news to go freelance and I honestly do miss alot of it. Here on LAF… Mr LAF has been very gracious to let me air some of these “backed up” opinions. I hope I don’t come off as the high school quarterback that graduates and then hangs out in the school parking lot everyday after school.
Hedeen is a former WXIA photographer. He blogs about beer, punk records and football here: http://burnthickorybrewery.blogspot.com,
Burnt Hickory Brewery is now accessible among the “blogroll luminaries” in the right column of LAF.