Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Some thoughts

It's been a rough 4 days. I had to go to work Friday, right in the middle of the Chopper crash of Channel 3 (KTVK) and Channel 15 (KNXV). The mood the last 4 days around the station has been a bit somber, though it has lightened up a little. One can not help but think about the 4 guys that lost their lives in those helicopters. Working in the TV industry, we have a brotherhood, much like the police, military or other organization as we are a specialized industry. Chances are, we know or have met people, we've worked with them, who later went on to other markets, networks or in this case, died. I have friends all over the country working in different media outlets and sometimes I catch a friend of mines' name on some major production. One of my friends that taught me how to edit on non-linear gear (computers) worked for Oprah & Jerry Springer and just completes editing his first major Hollywood film. So, we get to know people. It's really amazing how small the broadcasting community is when you get down to it.

I really wonder what the point of their dying was though. When you think about what they were doing, it wasn't a huge story that caused them their lives. I have wondered, perhaps as far back as when I worked in Denver, when something like this would happen. I have often told reporters when I have been out doing ENG (live truck) and noticed the choppers overhead, sometimes 1, 2 or 3 or even all 5 at some point, all hovering in the same general area, that I hoped that they didn't collide trying to cover a story. But now it's happened. I am surprised that it hasn't happened already in LA with all the car chases or New York, Frisco or Denver. You can't put that many helicopters into one area without the risk of something happening. My heart goes out to the families of the dead.

So what was the point? The reason for the coverage was for a stolen truck. That's all. A stolen truck that would not stop for police and was driving erratically around the city. He hadn't robbed a bank, he hadn't shot anyone, he just was driving a stolen truck. But there they were, all 5 stations, covering a stolen truck. Many times when there is no real news to be had, stations will send the choppers out to cruise and look for news. My problem is, in this case, they weren't covering a story worthy of all 5 choppers. But many times, when it's a slow news day, they all tend to focus on the same thing in order to be first, "Hey, if we can't find real news, let's make something up!"

Now, 4 guys are dead because of basically a stolen water truck. The police are mulling charges against the guy who started it all but that wouldn't be right. He didn't cause the TV stations to send up their 3 or 4 million dollar ENG "trucks" to fly all over. That decision was made by the news departments, and to an extent, the pilots themselves. To me, this was not worth a helicopter chase and certainly not the resulting tragedy that occurred. To me, this is another example of how TV news departments have to sensationalize story's in order to get attention. I think they are more concerned about winning an award for "best coverage of a breaking news event" than they are about informing the public about real stories.

It's weird to go to award ceremonies for TV & radio people, almost sickening. I quit going to them years ago as it's like watching the Oscars or something. It's almost like watching a feeding frenzy by sharks. To think that most of them win awards on the back of someone else's misery. I wonder who will win "Best Coverage for breaking news" this time when someone submits the story of the 2 choppers exploding. Who will be the sharks to pick up their awards for covering that one?

It's eerie to go to those things, all of the media people sitting around, having a circle jerk about how great and responsible they are. The "service" and "information" they "provide for the public good" and then they have the promotions department produce promos about being "the Emmy winner" or a promo about one of their reporters or anchors winning an emmy. The sad thing is, most of those reporters and anchors really have very little to do with the story they got the award for, the producer is the real brains. Most of those reporters and Anchors don't really know the story, they voice over or read what is written for them. Sometimes, they interview someone for the story, but if you asked them to tell you the complete story, they couldn't cos they really don't care. It's all about image, it's all about them.

Sometimes I just get sick to my stomach watching certain anchors on TV with their phony concern knowing that when we roll into the next break, I can hear them in cue laughing or talking about their new car, or their spouses new job or their trip to Europe or laughing at some unfortunate circumstance. Then they leave and go home in their porsches or BMW's or Mercedes Benz's talking on their cell phones. It's true almost, what Don Henley sang, "Got the bubble headed bleach blonde, comes on at 5, gonna tell you bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye, it's interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry..."

But, 4 guys are dead now. All because they wanted to cover a non-story. All because someone in the News department wanted to be "first" on the air with a story. Oh! how exciting it could be! he might ram the police! he might take a hostage! he might have a gun and shoot somebody! Nope, he stole a water truck.

Sometimes I hate TV.

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