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.

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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.

16 thoughts on “Two-man band

  1. 2video1

    As I have with Crawley, I’ll be glad to give you some tips. Tip 1. If you are looking in the camera and can’t see anything. A. Take the lens cap off. B. Turn the camera on. C. Turn the camera around you were probably looking in the lens! Good luck! I really won’t be laughing once you take the photographers jobs away. But I will be the guy standing on the corner with a sign asking for money. You will be able to recognize me. My sign will say “Why lie, I need a Beer!”

  2. Don B

    Just think, when all the other stations start doing the onemanbandthing, you will be so far ahead of them that you won’t miss the shot of the fireman saving the young girl from that burning building.

    You will laugh as you watch the WSBWAGAWGCL reporter/photographer, uh I meant, information specialist, standing next to you, missing the shot, fumbling with that auto focus-f stop button.

  3. Jim

    It’s funny…I shoot still now, and see a lot of these photoJ guys talking about how manual is the “only” way they shoot.

    My standard response is that, unless I am actually USING manual mode, mine lives in “p”.


    Simple. When I roll up on the end of the chase, and they’re dragging the guy out, they’re not gonna stuff him back in and do it again if I don’t have time to set my aperture and shutter. “p” may not get the “perfect” shot, but it will be serviceable, and that’s far more important than perfect.

    just get comfortable with it, and go with your gut-you’ve got the experience to know if a shot looks good or not.

    And you can join the photogs on the unemployment line when these “Citizen journalists” take all of our jobs away and the world gets all of it’s news (or what passes for it) for free from the blogosphere.

  4. The late Douglas Kiker

    Paul Crawley is the master of the “creme” colored sport coat.
    Consultants take your Blue Blazers, light blue shirts and maroon ties and throw them away. Paul Crawley wears “creme.”

  5. arky

    Most of the time, getting solid (and if you have time, clever) framing of shots will contribute much more to the appearance of your final piece than will having the iris and shutter at their optimal settings. Having all of the switches set perfectly won’t save a headroomless, no-depth-of-field, tilted shot of a scene so dead it looks like a still picture. Mind that focus, though, especially shooting interviews.

  6. tvb

    Suggestions for one man banding – don’t bother to focus, drop the camera on occasion, use badly framed shots, finally suggest to ND that perhaps those professional photographers are actually worth the miniscule dollars they previously paid them.

  7. LBJ

    Autofocus isn’t a problem…if you know HOW it focuses. Different cameras do it differently, so as long as you know how the camera thinks, it works pretty well. Just don’t shoot through glass.

  8. TVwoman

    If WXIA is so intent on redisigning their product, why do they keep their failed M-F anchor team in place? Think about the dinosaurs on their desk and the money they are making. Even in the best of times, Channel 11 trailed WSB and WAGA. It seems they could save alot of dollars and alot of jobs making a change on the desk. Why are they sacred cows in a time when Gannett is trying to reinvent the wheel. I would think Ted is making small next to the other three. Make a move 11. Send a message.

  9. cityjock

    WXIA isn’t as interested in redesigning their product as they are diluting their product with one man bands and saving money on payroll. plain and simple.

    RUN LIKE THE WIND from Gannett!!!


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