Monday, September 7, 2009

DAY 21

There is this new thing called an MMJ. Apparently I am it. I don't quite know what it means, but I'm the "guinea pig." My new tasks (on top of all the photographer duties that I have) include writing stories, shooting everything on my own, and getting paid the exact same amount. Don't worry, I'm excited. I've been complaining about the lack of intelligent thought that is required of me during most shifts... Now (for better or for worse) I have a chance to change that.

It has been a few weeks since I've really started embracing this new role... Ok, let's be honest... I'm really not embracing it at all... but it has been a few weeks since I've accepted my fate. I've been cheerfully riding solo, carrying my tripod, and conducting interviews on my own. I've been dipping my toes into the writing side of things... Crafting vsv's at a snails pace and sending them to producers for feedback. I haven't really been trained to be a reporter, but I guess I can fake it well enough to make people believe me.
Today however, I'm about to strike out. My news director just threw me a curve ball, and I didn't even see it coming. First she said the words, "one person band"... No big deal... I didn't bat an eye. It was the words that followed it that sent me back to the bench. "I think you're ready for a package!"

I'm not the type of person who says "I can't" so I take the curve ball in stride and pretend not to be phased. At least the story I'm doing is visual... Maybe I won't have to say much at all. I cling to my hope as I load into the truck and pull out of the station. The radio is silent today... I need to think.

I begin driving to a nursing home on the South end of town where I am meeting a Black Forest woman by the name of Ginny. Ginny and her miniature horse Peanut have been visiting nursing homes for almost nine months. It's a new version of animal therapy. If I didn't have a mountain of fear filling me up right now, I might actually be excited about this.

I arrive at the nursing home before Ginny. My stomache is clouded with butterflies and my mind is racing with questions. I can't seem to shake the crushing fear of failure. I know once she pulls up with Peanut in tow I'll relax a little and let habit kick in. I try to remind myself that I've shot these stories before. Nothing is new about this one... Nothing except that when I get back I won't be passing it off to any reporter. When I get back the monumental task of writing and voicing the package is all on my shoulders.

Finally I see a trailer round the corner in front of me. One deep breath later, I'm introducing myself, putting a microphone on Ginny, and marveling at Peanut's gym shoes. I've done this before. Ginny is relaxed and easy to talk to. I can tell right away that she is passionate about the work that she and Peanut are doing. She is grateful that I am here, helping her get her message out to the community.

We quickly pow wow about her game plan, before I run ahead to get set inside the nursing home. I'm not in photographer mode. My fears about what I will write when I return to the station are briefly shuffled to the back of my mind. I'm concentrated on getting a good white balance, keeping everything in focus, and capture a few of those priceless moments on tape (so that I actually have something to write about later). Luckily my subjects tell the story themselves. Their faces light up and their voices crack. One alzheimers patient begins telling a story of a horse that he had growing up. I am truly moved.

When the visit is over I grab a quick interview with the son of one of the patients. He is in town from Japan, where he is stationed with the US Marine's. He tells me that the visit was both exciting and engaging for his father. He can't believe the joy it has brought him. I can't help but smile to myself as I walk away... I can't believe I was worried about not getting enough sound to tell this story. The photographer in me is thinking about how great a natural sound package this would make. Who needs to hear my voice, when someone else can tell it better?

Maybe that's just a cop out. Maybe that is my fear shining through. Either way, this will be a reporter package when I get back. This will have my voice attached, whether it sounds good or not. The only way to learn how to ride is to hop on the bike and try... Regardless of how many times you fall. I must admit that the competitor in me doesn't like the idea of failure. I may not be a perfectionist, but I work hard to get things right. I've only been a photographer for two years, but I pride myself on the fact that my work doesn't reflect my inexperience. Today may tell a different story.

I follow Ginny to one more home and finish shooting my video. I impressed with the amount of natural sound I've captured, and the quality of my interviews. If my voice isn't too awful, I might actually be able to put together a nice little story out of this. It is only noon, but I hustle back to the station without grabbing lunch. Five hours seems like a lot of time, but I'm worried about how long this will take me to write. The video loads while I log the interviews. The butterflies are coming back now...

It's 1 pm before I finishing going through all my interviews. I've tried calming my racing heart, but have resorted to just ignoring the pounding in my chest. This trying new things idea isn't as fun as I thought it would be.

Five minutes later, still trying to conceal my full state of panic, I'm relieved when my assignment editor informs me that my story is being held for the weekend so that I can be a photographer for our nightside reporter. I feign disappointment while doing the happy dance in my head. Thank God! Now I have a full night to think about what I'm going to say... And an entire day to get my voice to sound good! My mind is still racing about the task that I have ahead of me tomorrow, but at least I've bought myself some time.

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