By Mike Daly
On Tuesday, August 18th, I was the videographer for a crew shooting a story near Blairsville, GA. I was contracting for a national television show. I drove a car which had no logo on it.
The story follows the search for Kristi Cornwell, who disappeared one week earlier. She went for an evening walk along a road and was on the cell phone with her boyfriend when she was apparently abducted.
On the 18th, there was still plenty of media coverage. Several law enforcement agencies were helping with the search and manpower hadn’t scaled down yet. They established roadblocks to ask motorists if they saw anything suspicious in the area a week earlier. The FBI also offered resources that day.
We interviewed Charles Brackett, the grandfather of Cornwell’s only son. He owns a local convenience store. His son had been married to Cornwell but they divorced 13 years ago. Brackett and his wife are still involved in their grandson’s life and say they love Kristi Cornwell dearly. The grandfather said he would do anything he could to help bring her back.
Our interview took place after a local Atlanta TV news crew had interviewed him. I know the local reporter and she did her usual excellent job. But there was a producer nearby, hired by one of the networks. After the local interview with the grandfather, this producer asked the grandfather not to do interviews with other Atlanta television media outlets. She said they were the competition.
News folks are competitive. I understand that. But, from time to time we make ourselves look bad. In this case, the family members, who are becoming fairly media savvy, are looking for as much exposure as they can get. Media involvement in this case will begin to subside very soon. Law enforcement won’t stop working the case, but they’re scaling back their search efforts.
The family wants to talk to as many media outlets as possible. To ask them to limit who they talk to is, to me, pretty darn selfish. Maximum exposure will help the family more.
Fortunately, the grandfather knows his right to freedom of speech and will decide to whom he talks and when. He will not let this producer, whom I believe was from out of town, limit his desire to give the story exposure. Granted, it’s her right to ask, which is what she did. She was even polite about it. But, what’s more important here folks? Getting an exclusive interview with granddad or finding Kristi Cornwell? My conscience tells me it’s finding Ms. Cornwell. Maybe that’s why I’m not such a good news guy.
Earlier that afternoon, I was attempting to shoot video of one of the roadblocks. GBI reps told us where one was located. On the way to it, I saw the roadblock from across a large field. I was in a right-turn lane and came to a stop. I then backed up a ways to get a clear shot. It was a pretty shot with the large green field in the foreground and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the back and the roadblock off in the distance.
Shortly after I began shooting, a black SUV pulled up behind me with blue lights flashing. Two men approached me. Their vests said they were with “Corrections.”
They asked who I was, what I was doing and which outlet I was shooting for.
I answered their questions. They asked for ID to show that I was working for the TV show that I said I was. I had no credentials from the TV show, but they accepted my business card. One of them told me they were looking out for people who were “shooting video to sell to the media.”
I realized I wasn’t credentialed. I was driving an unmarked car. But, I didn’t know it was illegal to sell video to the media. In a sense, that was what I was doing anyway. I was contracted for a program and they would pay me to come up with their product. Part of me wanted to grill this guy about whether he really gets to decide who can and cannot shoot video at a search. I kept my mouth shut.
I eventually reached the roadblock, but had to go through it before I could shoot. Since I wasn’t from the area, they took my name, license plate number and telephone number. The officer even asked me what color my eyes were.
I just hope that they find Ms. Cornwell healthy and safe. She has a kind family and after all these years of shooting crime and destruction, it’s still really tough to watch a family go through this.
Mike Daly is a DP / producer / maestro at the Southeast’s finest boutique video production company, TomorrowVision Media.