Monday, March 11, 2013

03- When You're In New York


WHEN YOU'RE IN NEW YORK
     It was big news in New York; a young police officer, recently a new father, shot down and paralyzed by a gang member. He was coming to Denver’s Craig Hospital to receive special treatment to help him adapt to his new condition. Mostly because it was such big news in New York, it became of interest to the Colorado media as well. A news conference was planned for the afternoon.
I got there early and found a New York TV crew of 5 in the hospital gym with their lights and microphone cords taped securely to the floor. They had set up about 20 feet back from the center of a long folding table with a microphone on it. Clearly they expected the patient to sit at that table. Attached to the mic was a huge sign with their station call letters on it. As the other local stations arrived they noticed the same problem that had caught my attention. I remember, in particular, Dave Stevens was there beside me eyeing the New York crew.
At that time Denver was a great place to work in the TV news business. There was a mutual respect here shared by all of the people who worked reporting and photographing the news. Over time the custom evolved to not use “flags” (sometimes called “bugs” - the colorful station logos attached to microphones) because, we all agreed, they cluttered up the picture and in other markets had evolved to even larger and gaudier flags. I tried to explain our local tradition to the New Yorkers. “We don’t use flags here in Denver,” I said. “Well we do. And when you’re in New York you can use yours too.” All five of them broke out in laughter. I smiled but said nothing more as I set up my gear.
About 2 minutes before the news conference was scheduled to start, I picked up my camera and tripod and moved 10 feet closer to the table. The other local stations did the same. “Hey you can’t do that. We were here first,” the big city crew stormed. “Well, here in Denver we obviously set up a little closer than you do in New York. But while you’re here, you can still set up back there if you want to,” I replied.
While they were fuming, and demanding we move back to their line, all of the local stations noticed the patient being wheeled in from the far corner of the large gym. In an instant all three photographers were off their tri-pods, hand holding their cameras and using portable lights and shot gun microphones. None of us wanted boring video of that guy telling his story sitting behind a table. The story was about his mobility or lack of it. His best remarks and certainly the best video were gathered while we were moving along together as a group. The New York crew had no portable light and was completely taped down to the floor. Even so, it was amazing how fast 5 people could scurry about when they had a common goal. By the time they were able to free themselves the wheelchair had reached the end of the table and paused there. They had missed it all, and now that the procession had stopped, they were out of position as all three local stations continued with their questions. This effectively shut out the New York crew who tried as best they could to shoot over our heads or from the side. They were trying to arrange a second interview with the injured police officer as we all packed up and left. Their wide shot must have looked very lonely in that large, empty gym... but maybe that’s how they do it in New York.


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