Priorities

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.

Charles Brackett

Charles Brackett

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.

Missing in Blairsville:  Kristi Cornwell

Missing in Blairsville: Kristi Cornwell

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.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Priorities

  1. Jim

    Mike, wow, you’ve brought out two pet peeves of mine in one post.

    If I’m working an exclusive, I may well suggest to the folks invoved that they’re going to get a lot more bank for their buck if they refrain from throwing the story out to the world before we air it.

    In a situation like this, I agree, they need as much PR as possible. I’m like anyone else. If I find a long lost relative, I’m certainly not going to share that with the world, and would probably hope to be the first one to let them share their story. However, once that’s done, then I’m going to hope they go tell everyone about her.

    From the way you described it, it sounds like this person was not a secret find, and I don’t think she had any business pulling that stunt. Like you say, it makes us look bad. All she did was to reinforce a view that I’d be many in that family already have-that we’re only about the ratings, and we’ll be gone as soon as the blue lights leave.

    The day I let my camera become more important than my soul-I’m quitting.

    As for the corrections cops-they probably just don’t let them out much. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and they’ll stop some lawyers kid who’s out shooting on spec.

    Reply
  2. live apt fire Post author

    In my experience, network field producers tend to be young, smart and very aggressive. Their bosses have instilled into them a mentality that booking for Today, GMA etc. are akin to warfare. Some local news directors would love nothing more than to instill the same mentality into their troops.

    I’d love to know if there’s any data on how quickly those producers burn out of the business. It would be tough to sleep at night, I would think, if my job was to demand that the grief-stricken and the suffering should speak to them and nobody else.

    Reply
  3. Alan

    Did anyone ever check the veracity of the correction officers claims about not allowing filming? Or were they just on a powertrip?

    Reply

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