The Newseum in Washington D.C. has added me and my brand of “One Man Band” journalism to exhibits chronicling the dramatic changes in the news industry.
I’m featured in the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery on the third level of the Newseum in an exhibit called “Digital News Revolution”.
The exhibit reads:
“Get Your Local TV News From a “One-Man Band”
“Television stations are changing the way they gather and deliver the news.
“To cut costs and take advantage of new technologies, some traditional news crews are being replaced by “one-man band” operations. TV reporters shoot and edit their own stories using Web cameras, laptop editing programs and the Internet.
“Some TV stations will soon start delivering local news live via mobile devices such as cell phones, GPS units and MP3 players. These devices will pinpoint your location through a tracking system and pass on information about local news weather and traffic.”
Being enshrined in a major museum comes with mixed feelings. Naturally, I’m honored to be recognized on the cutting edge of a mass medium. By the same token, critics might note that I’m now literally the poster child for cost cutting.
Ironically some might say, the exhibit is just around the corner from a display devoted to Edward R. Murrow who once said: “We cannot make good news out of bad practice”.
But Murrow also said: “A reporter is always concerned with tomorrow. There’s nothing tangible of yesterday.”
At their best, the technologies brought to bear by a skilled One Man Band can beat traditional crews in speed and flexibility. My experience tells me that One Man Banding is not “bad practice”. Rather, it is a new practice, that allows a creative journalist to inform a global audience by leveraging wireless capabilities to deliver video and text on-air and on line in near real time.
Remember, Murrow’s signature broadcast was named See It Now. Surely, Murrow would have no argument with the unfiltered reality that this technology is capable of delivering so the public can do just that.
Inevitably when there’s talk about One Man Band TV reporting, the issue of safety comes up.
In my career as a traditional TV reporter, I’ve dealt with everything fron knife weilding nutcases to angry neo-nazis, crazed dogs and stinging insects. In the old days, I usually had my partner (photographer) covering my back, and vice versa. Obviously, working alone leaves me playing man-to-man D in any tough situation that comes up.
Below is a little memo I wrote to my co-workers recently about a situation that could have got anybody killed, working alone or not. It had nothing to do with dark nights in a bad neighborhood. But it does illustrate that you are your own safety fail safe.
Nowadays, I try to remember the most experienced, level-headed partners I have worked with — and ask myself, “what would they be thinking right now?” — before I get out of the car. (Speaking of cars, driving is clearly the most dangerous thing we do on the job everyday.)
The memo titled “Live Wire Safety” is below:
I had a little storm chasing experience that I thought I’d share, partly as a safety reminder, and partly to get over the “willies” by telling someone.
For background, I’ve sat through a lot of mandatory safety seminars over the years — and like many of us, I feel like I’ve “been there, done that” in just about every situation. Yesterday, I learned how dangerous that attitude can be.
I was headed to a downed live wire and arrived simultaneously with first responders. Its a situation I’ve seen repeatedly in 27-years of reporting. Recognizing the danger, I resisted the instinct for up close nats with firefighters, and took the following actions:
*I stayed safely in the electrically insulated car and retreated at least 50 yards.
*I put the car safely out of traffic.
*I put on my reflective vest.
*I checked the power lines and trees above for any signs of instability before getting the camera out to begin shooting.
Only then did I start shooting action so distant I was on full zoom.
So how did I almost get electrocuted for a routine 30-second vo?
I made the critical mistake of parking less than 10 feet from a galvanized steel guard rail, which happened to be in contact with the wire more than 50 yards away.
It’s an obvious hazard I never considered, until electricity arced from the rail right nearby — at about the same time a firefighter warned me the rail might be hot.
Thankfully, a guard rail is obviously grounded, but had I parked a little closer and swung the car door into contact with it, or touched it in any way, I would be cooked. (Ironically, for safety, I often make a point of putting a guard rail between me and traffic by climbing over to the other side — or I’ll lean against one to steady an off tripod shot).
The visible arcing was a sign that even the rail’s contact with the ground was not enough to handle the current.
It was, as they say, a close one — and I should have known better, because I’ve been trained on this.
Lesson learned: In live wire situations — think about ALL the ways that electricity reach out to get you. Distance from the arcing wire is not the only consideration. (And thinking you’ve “been there, done that” is not a smart approach).