Daily Archives: September 3, 2009

Two-man band

Paul Crawley, WXIA

Paul Crawley, WXIA

Paul Crawley is older than I am, which makes him (and me) older than dirt.  Like me, Crawley started in TV news with a film camera.  As young reporters in (separate) smaller markets, Crawley and I shot our own stories on clunky 3/4″ videotape gear.  Upon graduating to larger-market local news, Crawley and I had the good fortune to work in shops that employed professional TV photographers.  They concentrated solely on video, while we reporters concentrated solely on producing the story.

Times have changed.  Crawley is now what WXIA calls a “multi-media journalist.” This means Crawley shoots his own stories, on a video camera that’s the size of a pint glass.  He props the camera onto an absurdly lightweight tripod.  He shoots, uploads, then edits the piece himself.   When I look at him, I see what’s in store for me.   WXIA hired me as a multi-media journalist too.

I will admit that I’m nervous about this.  While my command of the English language and the conventions of story production are decent, I have a somewhat tortured relationship with technology.  Especially cameras.  The photo below is a prime example.


Jay Leno showed up at WXIA last month.  I approached him, mumbled something about my in-laws being huge fans.  I stuffed a piece of paper into his mitts which said “Hi Ana / Hi Kees / xo Jay.”  I snapped the photo with my blackberry.  Obviously, I failed to wipe the goop and pocket lint from the lens first.  It was a one-time-only shot, and I botched it.  I’d give myself an B+ for inspiration, and an F+ for execution.

As as the co-owner of TomorrowVision Media for the last two years, I’ve shot lots and lots of video.  Some of it has been quite good.  Almost all of it was in focus, was adequately exposed, and has clear audio.

When my business partner Mike Daly is slinging the camera, I’m a serviceable second photog.  But last month, Daly was unavailable for a TVM shoot.  I shot it myself.  I’m ingesting the video as I write, and I’m cringing a lot.  The camera’s aperture and focus settings were on manual; no self-respecting professional would use auto-settings.

The piece will look OK.  But maybe I need to respect myself a little less.

At least there’s no goop on the lens.

So far, WXIA hasn’t asked me to shoot any stories, recognizing that I’d need a transitional period into the new workplace.    I’m quite OK with that.  WXIA is somewhat covered up with plaques, showing its photography staff getting various NPPA honors.  Those folks are gifted.   On a good day, I’m a decent editor and an adequate photographer.  That’s assuming that I can master Avid editing.

The Sony HVR-Z1U

Larger than a pint glass: The Sony HVR-Z1U

But the day is coming.  This week, chief photog Steve Flood assigned me a Sony HVR-Z1U camera.  Once the station assigns me a laptop editor (and trains me on Avid), then I expect to start shooting my own stories.  I’m probably better equipped than most reporters my age to revert to the old-school style one-man-band.  I’ve had ample practice, early in the career and over the last two years.

I will probably also take Crawley’s advice.  When I asked him to what extent he uses auto-settings when shooting news stories, he cheerfully answered:  Frequently.