Saturday, July 25, 2009

DAY 18

Two interesting things happened today.

First, I almost got arrested. No, it is not the first time this has happened... but considering my sunny disposition toward police officers and sheriffs deputies, it is quite shocking to imagine that anyone would want to cart me away and lock me up.

Secondly, my reporter seriously told a deputy that he wasn't familiar with the term "dick". The comment followed a lengthy, and quite humorous conversation... that taken out of context is probably the funniest thing that I've heard in a while.

The real interesting thing... this all happened on Rampart Range Rd, while covering an accidental shooting death. Why are reporters talking with sheriffs deputies about dicks at a crime scene? Why are photogs being threatened with arrest? Well my friends, let me explain.

I get paid to shoot video. I do this by pointing my camera at the most interesting thing I can find, switching it on, and hitting record (with a few steps in between to ensure that it is focused and properly white balanced). So, when I show up at a crime scene, sectioned off by yellow police tape, I normally walk right up to the tape and plop myself in the most inviting spot.

Today, I did just that. When we arrived at the shooting range, sheriffs cars already lined the dirt pathway. The Memorial Star helicopter was parked in the general parking area, next to an ambulance and some more cop cars. At first I didn't even see the crime tape. As I climbed out of the truck however, I realized that the scene was down a slight embankment, and around the corner... blocked by a bush. Not to worry though, I could still see emergency personel standing in a huddle. I couldn't quite tell what they were working on, but I'll take what I can get.

I stand in one place shooting video for about five minutes. Finally I decide to take a few steps to my right, just to see what I can see. Almost immediately I heard a booming, not so pleasant voice, screaming at me. "GET BACK! GET AWAY FROM HERE!" Normally, I'm the first photog to argue with the police. My usual line goes something like this, "Officer I don't mean to be rude, I'm a little confused. I'm behind the crime tape, on public property. I'd be more then willing to back up, if you would like to extend your scene, but until you do so, I'm going to stay here."

Today however, I'm in no mood to argue. I know shocking... but today, I'm actually willing to back up. I move back to the spot I was in five minutes ago. Thinking that I've satisfied the deputy's wishes, I turn the camera back on COMMERCIAL CAMERA AND DESTROY IT. AND THEN I WILL TAKE YOU TO JAIL. IF YOU DON'T MOVE RIGHT NOW, YOU WILL BE ARRESTED!!" I glance behind my shoulder, thinking surely he must be talking to someone else. Afterall, I've already moved back... and nobody seemed to care when I was in this spot five minutes ago. Then it comes again. "I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO MOVE." This time he is moving towards me. That's when I realized he is serious, he is talking to me, and now is not the time to argue. Reluctantly I retreat back behind another sheriffs vehicle, where I can see absolutely nothing, and wait.

Now, I haven't been in this business very long. Afterall, I'm only 24. But, in the two years that I've been shooting news, there are a few rules that I've mastered. First and foremost, never cross police tape...ever. I got that. My question is, why do they put crime tape up, if they want you to stay three blocks behind it. I don't know if it is just the law enforcement in this town, or if it happens everywhere... all I know is that it is starting to get old. For some reason Joe Schmoe from down the street can walk right up to the crime tape, lift it up and continue walking down the sidewalk... but if I show up with a camera, I'm automatically interfering with their investigation and the safety of the public. I get my ass chewed for being there and sent a mile and a half away (most likely shooting directly into the sun). Does something seem a bit fishy to you? I don't like it. I swear... if law enforcement spent half the time do their job that they spend reprimanding me (for not breaking any law) this city would be the safest place in the world.

Depending on my mood, I argue, I comply, I pretend like I don't hear... but it happens either way, and I'll continue to deal with it until my time in news is over.

Moving on to my favorite comment of the week...the reason why news is a fun business to work in. After my verbal reaming, I shot enough video to last a week and a half and retreated back to the safety and comfort of the air conditioned car. Being out of cell service and therefore unable to text, I twiddle my thumbs for a while before I send my reporter to go make nice with the cops and see if we can get someone to talk. This is the conversation that follows...

Reporter: Hello there sir. Is a PIO on the way? Do you have any information about when someone will be available to talk to us?
Deputy: The PIO isnt coming. She lives too far away.Silence.
Reporter: Well, is there someone that could go on tape with a little bit of information?
Deputy: You can talk to one of the "dicks" when they get here.

Silence... more silence... now it's getting awkward.

Reporter: One of the dicks?
Deputy: Yeah, one of the dicks. They are on the way. They should be here shortly.

Reporter nodds. Shakes his head, and looks like there is something he wants to say. More awkward silence.

Reporter: I'm sorry sir. I'm not familiar with that term. Can you tell me what a dick is?

Now, there are many responses to this question. In the term that he is refering to, a dick is a detective. In everyday conversation, this question would merit some sort of snide remark about something sexual and completely out of line. I can think of a lot of things I would say in response... but I'll hold my tongue.

Today the response is simple.

Deputy: Detective.

(Now at this point in the reenactment of the story, I am on the ground of the car laughing hysterically. The deputy has walked away, and is also laughing and slyly pointing toward our vehicle.)

When the detectives arrive they are briefed on the situation, and of course told about the interesting converstaion that was exchanged only moments ago. Nothing is said when he finally comes over to chat, but we all know what he is thinking. At least he isn't being a dick about it :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DAY 17

Day 17
My alarm goes of and I hit snooze. Once. Twice. Three times. I don't know why I even set the damn thing. Finally I just turn it off and lay in bed, enjoying the fact that Idon't have to be at work for another three hours. It's Saturday, the sun in shining, and I'm not working.... can it get any better?

My excitement in shortlived... probably because I waste the whole morning sleeping. I shuffle into work at 1:30 ready to address my fate. I'm immediately greeted with a smile and press release for a car seat safety check event. John's running late, so I'm on my own for the time being. I drop my stuff at the desk and head out the door. Luckily the event is right down the street at the Walmart parking lot. Unluckily it ends in about five minutes, so the only video I have is a few people standing around, eyes fixed on their watches.

I grab a quick soundbite with the guy in charge. Apparently out of the hundreds of carseats they've checked today, 70% had something wrong. Scary thought. One last car pulls in for a check and I get a few shots of the people inspecting the seat and the installation. Piece of cake. Back at the station five minutes later I'm handed some vsv's to edit that have already been shot by another photog. No, I'm not the editor. For some reason on the weekends though, titles don't really seem to matter. I guess you could call me, photog, editor, live truck operator, vsv writer extroridnare... oh, and did I mention doppler watcher and scanner listener?

Before I have a chance to touch my newest project a call comes out for a hazmat scene on the north end of town. The phone rings and our overzealous weekend anchors insist that I leave immediately. I try to explain that I have three stories to edit before 5, but they're having none of it. So I pass off the editing duties to my reporter and head out the door. I make it to the address that we heard called out and the street is empty. I glance upand down the intersection hoping to catch a glimmer of flashing lights. Nothing. So I turn the truck around and begin the trek back toward the station.

Before I can even set my camera down, the station phone rings again. Our conversation goes something like this.

Anchor: "So what did you get?"
Me: "Nothing. There was nobody there. I looked around the neighborhood a bit too. Nothing."
Anchor: "Well we know that something is going on. We heard another call for it"
Me: "Well do you have another address because nobody is at the one you gave me."
Anchor: "Did you drive down Tejon? What did you see driving down Tejon? The street we think it's on is near Tejon."
Me: "Tejon stretches the entire length of Colordao Springs. No I didn't drive down Tejon. I took the highway."
Anchor: "Well what did you see driving down Tejon."
(Banging my head against the wall...)
Me: "I didn't drive Tejon."
Anchor: "This is important. You need to get some video of this scene."
Me: "I have three other stories to do in about an hour. Why don't you figure out where exactly this scene is, and whether or not we really care, and then I'll go if it is something important."
Anchor: "I wouldn't send you if I didn't care! You need to go."
Me: "Ok, I'm leaving... call me with directions."

I sigh and head back out the door. When I finally find the hazmat scene in the alley of a street that doesn't intersect Tejon at any point, I'm told by the firemen that the hazardous material is only rain water. I shoot some video anyways and head back to the station. After the vo is edited, I call down to Pueblo to correct the script. "They aren't still testing the materials. They've confirmed that it was only rain water." I say. "Well who told you that?" "The lt. on scene. I didn' get it on tape because you told me you only wanted a vo." "Well who was he?" "I don't know. Why does it matter. He was with the fire department." "What was his name?" (Catch my drift... this conversation was obviously going nowhere.)

I hang up the phone and get back to work. Now I only have about twenty minutes to edit together all four of the stories I've been handed. Working quickly, and with the help of my reporter, I get everything done on time... then it's back out the door to start work on my actual story for the afternoon. Up north in briargate, it's now 5:45. I'm sitting at Rep. Doug Lambourns house talking about clean energy and a bill that just passed the US House of Representatives. Outside a storm is raging its way through the springs. I'm thankful that I'm not in it. While we are conducting the interview my phone begins to vibrate. Then, like clockwork, my reporters phone starts ringing as well. We both ignore the calls, not wanting to be rude to our guest who graciously agreed to meet us on a Saturday.

I'm loading the gear into the back of the truck, when I learn what the call was all about. A body has been found... hanging from a tree. Who knows how long it has been there? Who knows how it got there. All I know is that our day just got a lot more interesting. I excellerate onto the highway, driving quickly, excited for our breaking news. We make it to the scene and hop out of the truck. Immediately I am greeted with the smell of rot. I've never experienced a smell quite like it... and never want to again. If you have ever smelled a rotting body, you know just what I'm talking about. It is this stench that sits in the pit of your stomache, that you can taste on the tip of your tongue, and carries into the back of your mouth. It blows with the wind, nauseating even the most hardened police man. All I want is to hop back in the car and drive away, but the smell is there too. A police man approaches us and tell us that it is a suicide. We nod, shoot a quick few shots of video and go grab some dinner.

Then the reaming begins. Apparently our story about clean energy is out the window. The anchors want the suicide, live for the ten. My reporter starts to argue but its to no use. Things are different on the weekends. It was my understanding that the suicide policy was we don't cover it unless it is a public figure or done in a public way. In my opinion this was neither. The neighbors didn't even know about the body until we went knocking on their doors. This poor man had been hanging from a tree for almost three weeks, and nobody saw. Is that public? Interestingly enough, the neigbhor that called it in to the police didn't even know that it was a dead body. He thought that a deer had died, and was rotting in the trees behind his property.

At ten we are the only crew on scene. We stand infront of an empty dark field talking about how nobody even knew a dead body was there. And then we pack up and call it a night. Another battle lost between us and anchors. Do I think we covered the right story? No. Often times teh news business is criticized for jumping at an opportunity to cover crime and gore, even when it isn't exactly newsworthy. Do I think we did that tonight? Yes.

We often sit on our high horse and criticize the other stations for making a big deal out of something that really isn't anything at all. We laugh when they go overboard, creating fear and drama out of a story that deserves a spot in the trashcan. But tonight, we were the ones creating news... I think sometimes we are so set on telling the story the way we want it to be, that we don't open our eyes and see what it really is. We walk in we preconcieved notions of how everything will go, and refuse to change course when reality is altered. Tonight was one of those nights. Lucky for me, tomorrow is a new day.

By the way... the hazmat story never ran. Surprise, surprise.