Cameras in our heads

Patty Pan, WAGA

Patty Pan, WAGA

Fighting off exhaust fumes, one can just imagine the sardonic chuckling emanating from a WAGA live truck as Patty Pan’s photographer edited her piece last week from the scene of a police crackdown / media event that spanned metro Atlanta.

It was Pan’s misfortune to cover a coordinated sweep of somewhat bad guys in the somewhat crime-ridden suburbs of Gwinnett.  She and a photog rode along in a patrol car during the “sweep,” which appeared to consist of cops mostly setting aside fourth-amendment probable-cause standards and cuffing folks for TV (“round up the usual suspects!”), knowing full well that a judge would probably let them go within hours.

Because Pan and other media were in cahoots with the law — tipped off, as they were, in advance of the sweep — Pan overlooked the denial-of-suspect-rights story.

Thank goodness!  From WGCL

Thank goodness! From WGCL

(WGCL covered a similar story in Fulton County around the same time, using the banner “keeping your family safe.”  Not only is that a catchier banner than “cops run roughshod over the Bill of Rights,” but TV is loathe to question such technicalities unless it results in something awful, like the Kathryn Johnston killing on Neal St. NW in late 2006.)

Back to our heroine, Ms. Pan, an enterprising and resourceful reporter.  She clearly lacked much of a story.

The big tipoff was her repeated first-person references to her presence on-scene.  Normally, this is kind of a given.  When you don’t have much material, it’s a safe haven for by-the-numbers news writing.

The first reference was merely “we are out here” at the command post.  That was during her live intro.

The second, during the same intro, was “my photographer and I rode along with Lawrenceville police” as the fun began.

The third, in her package, was “we were there” as stuff kind of started to happen.  At this point, Pan showed some generic video of cops interacting with folks in bad neighborhoods, occasionally restraining them with the casual use of handcuffs.

The fourth time, Pan signaled to the audience that she really had nothing to say.  “Our cameras were rolling as….” well, nothing much happened.  No drama.  No takedowns.  Nothing that one might normally expect to see when hearing such a line.

How many “cameras” did WAGA send to this sweep?  It’s possible they sent an extra photog.  But this staged event demanded only the minimum resources from any staff-strapped TV station:  One photog, one reporter.  Other stations apparently deemed that kind of manpower too much for this police / media circle-jerk.

Pan isn’t alone using this bit of TV boilerplate.  The “our cameras” line is an increasingly tiresome mainstay, driven by news managers who want to “sell” stories with jargon that generates heat but sheds no light.  That, and it’s an easy line to use when there’s nothing else to say.

Thank goodness Pan’s photog had the good sense to hit the “REC” button, thus “rolling” images onto a video card.  If he hadn’t, Pan would have lacked video and a line that usefully consumed precious seconds in her package.

The time-killing line reminds us of a line from a similar Mark Winne package that has stuck in our heads for years:  “There were handcuffs.  Lots of handcuffs.”

Wait a minute.  “Our” heads?  How many heads do we think we have?  How many of “us” are there, exactly, writing this dumb blog?

Never mind.

This entry was posted in pan patty, WAGA, WGCL on by .

About live apt fire

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.

7 thoughts on “Cameras in our heads

  1. 2video1

    As I said before in a response to another article here. The phrase “our Cameras were rolling” is basically an outright lie. Rarely does a station ever have two cameras at an event like this or at that “exclusive story”. What ever happened to truth in the media? It goes beyond this with the advent of processed language now. Reporters are now required to say “just moments ago” or “this just in” when in reality the event happened hours earier. How about the term “Breaking News” when again the event may have been happening for hours. It might just be “Breaking News” because the station just found out about it!

  2. Jim

    Maybe Patty Pan was “rolling” with her I-phone-thus giving them more than one.

    I agree, this was nonsense. I think any station that covers it obligates themselves to provide future coverage of situations created by this as well.

    They should:
    Find out (and tell us) how many actual arrests were made, and for what.

    Tell us how many man hours were involved in the “sweep” so we can figure out how much this cost us, per arrest.

    Tell us how many arrests were for warrants, and how many were for violations found right then.

    Go back in a week or two, and get the details on what happened after-how many people had the charges dropped (and why) and how many people are still charged.

    Tell us if any lawsuits/legal action resulted.

    On an entirely unrelated note, I watched two different A.M. shows this morning (WAGA and WGCL) and never saw one single mention of the woman who cried rape and now turns out to be a serial false reporter.

    I know stations here usually wait a day or two before they steal material from the AJC, but this one they probably should have had this morning. Boortz was all over it.

  3. arky

    Yes, “cameras rolling…” makes me laugh, but my least favorite cliche is increasingly common in cable news: when the anchor tags a live shot of a breaking story by saying, “Well, keep following it Marty, and if you hear anything else, let us know right away.”

    I’m waiting for the day when someone responds, “Gee, Alan, I was going to SIT on whatever new information comes out and take a nap, but since you said that…”

  4. Deanna

    I’ve never been in the business. I’m just a viewer. But I’ve never assumed that “cameras” in that context ever literally meant more than one camera. And I’ve never assumed that anyone was trying to get me to believe that was the case.


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