Saturday, November 25, 2006


If you spend enough time in TV, one of the things you learn is there's always going to be someone new to work with. In my 10 years playing TV, I've seen my share of coworkers come and go. In fact I've been one who's come and gone two times now.

Some of them have been bad, like the one who consistently gave me 2 minute long stories less than an hour before air and looked blankly at me when I told her this was a problem.

Most have been good. But I've had the extremely huge privilege of working with several really wonderful people. When you work in the trenches day in and day out, riding across the market in a marked TV makin' tin-can, you have a unique opportunity to learn about every little detail of the person sitting next to you.

That's the case with Angela the lovely reporter above.

When I first met her I thought she was a loud and brash, girl from out East. After sharing countless miles across the market, I found out she is a loud, and only slightly brash(her term is loquacious) girl from Philly. That and she's a great journalist.

I watched her perfect her craft during the 3 years I worked with her. I watched as she learned the fine art of weaving her script with video and sound to tell a compelling story. I also watched as she taught me that as serious a business TV can be, you gotta have fun. If we were working on a story we were always laughing about something.

Keep on laughing Ang!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

In The Groove

There's been a change here in Sapphoto land. I've crossed over to the other side.

I've become the "man", the same "man" I railed against for oh so many years. The same man who sent me to check out this fire call, that homicide investigation, asked me to edit an extra package, or made me shoot yet another questionable live shot.

I now sit behind a desk every day and send crews to check out the scanner traffic about flames showing...

Monday, April 24, 2006

An Officer's Last Call

MemorialHeroic effortsBlack Bunting, grieving officers and an unmanned squad car...All signs of the great sacrifice police officers make every day. It's happened again. Corporal Scott Severns of the South Bend P.D. lost his life in the early morning hours of April 23rd. Corporal Severns lost his life after being shot three times hours earlier, while off duty and according to reports trying to protect a friend.

This is the second time a police officer has been killed while I've been working here in Michiana. Two years ago Mishawaka P.D. lost two officers, at the hands of another gunman. In my 8 years of rolling tape I've only covered one other officer death. A bank robber shot and killed Lois Marrero of Tampa P.D. during a foot chase.

What can I say? My prayers and condolences go out to the family, friends and co-workers of Cpl. Severns.

Even though Scott Severns was off duty when he was shot, it does little to mitigate the pain felt in the community. In fact, Scott being shot while being a "normal" citizen strikes deep. I had the opportunity to ride along with 2 South Bend officers several months ago. Many times my only interaction with these officers is across the fluttering yellow tape that seperates the postage stamp of land that is a crime scene from the rest of the world. They must hold the denizens of mayhem reportage at bay while trying to maintain order in maniacal situations. During these ride alongs, I was reminded how these guys are just like me: they're doing the best they can at their job, with families waiting for them at home, and trying to not get sucked in by the mayhem that seems to come with the job.

Sheldon and Jim were nothing but professional and human that night. From all I've heard, I expect that Scott was just as exceptional, professionally and personally.

Rest In Peace and Godspeed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Life through a viewfinder...


Liveshots, cut-ins, break-ins, and superfluous tap-dancing. Anytime the President comes to town it becomes an "All Hands On Deck" situation. It's not everyday you get to play host to one of most poweful people in the world. However, Michiana has played host to President Bush 7 times before.

I'm not a Presidential rookie. I've done pretty much every aspect of a presidential visit. I've been on the risers following the President's moves. I've been sitting in the truck watching my fellow teammate follow the President around the stage. (that's what I was doing on 9/11. Talk about a front seat to history!) And, I've even stood on the side of the road recording the attempts of protestors trying to make an impression in the 10 seconds it takes for the motorcade to zoom past.

This time Sapphoto got to sit on a wide open airport tarmac with 20ยบ temps and 20mph winds to bring you and our loyal viewers the arrival and departure of Air Force One. Part of you becomes used to the pomp and hardened to the circumstances. All five of my "loyal" photog readers have most likely been through a Secret Service security sweep before so I'll save you the torture. Actually, this time wasn't too bad. It was the White House lead person who left us in a tight spot. Oh well, everything worked on the first try. Good thing too. There wasn't time for trouble shooting before the Presidential Bird loomed LARGE over the eastern horizion, and the IFB exploded with the hurried voice of the producer, "AF1 is coming at you and we're live on your shot."

This trip wasn't anything ground-breaking. The president was in town to help congressman Chris Chocola raise money for this year's campaign.

I kept my camera trained on the blue and white VC-25 as it touched down on the secured runway. Once the plane taxied and parked, I waited for the door to open and the President to emerge.

Being the professionally forged photographer that I am, I captured the "money shot"(our anchor's term) of the President waving to the four or five cameras located on the flatbed semi-trailer that was our stage.

Pretty routine, huh?

The one thing though...Did I really see him? I may have had my picture taken with the plane, but did I really see the President? I don't think I saw him with my naked eye until I made it a point to look when he departed our fair city.

You see I find myself asking this question after I've seen some of the coolest things ever. Did I really see that? When I look back with my mind's eye, I see a black and white picture of the person/event with the battery percentage, filter number, and VU meter. I did make sure I pointed the digital camera at the President when I ducked out from behind the least the picture my memory will be in color.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I've been away from the keyboard for several weeks now. It almost seems as though the previous picture spoke to how busy I've been lately. ( it me or has there been a bevy of single finger salutes on photog websites? #2 getting the #1, TVPhotog is loved by his sister, and Jorge is making friends all over hippieville.)

When I was finally able to return to the world of photogblogs, I noticed I was having a different sweeps outcome than some of my lens toting brethren.

I've been without a reporter for the last 3 months. I've been riding solo on the morning shift trying to find live talk-backs, covering house fires, and car crashes. Double that up with things being really slooooooow in Michiana, and you have a photographer scouring for ideas.

Thankfully, I came up with some. Even more thankfully they turned out great.

I'm sure it's been done before but I pitched a series of stories about things that happen overnight. Since I was without reporter I got to do these on my own taking some time to do them right.

This job is so cool at times. Here is what I did:
  • I got to roam the presses at our sister daily newspaper.
  • I got to ride shotgun with two of South Bend's police officers on the 3rd shift.(Thanks Jim and Sheldon)
  • I got a box of the finest Belgian pastries this side of the St. Joseph river
  • I got to wash it all down with some frest milk.
In and of themselves these stories may be mundane. However, they all gave me a chance get to know a person and tell their story in an intersting creative way.

Of course they don't post overnight stories at the double duece, so I won't be able to stimulate the cerebrum more than with a few dozen words.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Flipped off

Although they seem ubiquitious, it's not everyday youre friendly neighborhood lensman(woman) gets to capture scenes from a perpwalk.

Do this job long enough though and the number of scenes could fill up a nice little tape reel. The characters on this reel range from the famous to the infamous. From those you feel sorry for, to those who couldn't even garner a sliver of sympathy from most people.

I've taken part in many backpedaling contests as have others...(Lenslinger and here)

Most are innocuous and easily forgettable. For me that boring streak ended yesterday. I was waiting in the courthouse for the alleged getaway driver in murder to make an appearance in court.

After several false starts with other inmates getting off of the elevator my subject appears through the door. This is what I get. --------->

Well that and being told several colorful suggestions.  It was the most interesting and entertaining 15 seconds of video I've shot in this week.

Maybe the CIA is hiring

Or maybe not...

Either way, I'm not sure I could get a job after yesterday's fiasco.

Many times in this business we get our interviews by calling in and setting them up. Sometimes, though, people just aren't ready to talk, and we have to try face to face to get our interviews. Today was one of those times...

Our poor subject today: The Superintendent of a local school district who is leaving after a year on the job.

Our mission: Our ND has tasked us today with finding Mr. H. and getting sound to fill the insatiable news beast(5,5:30,6,&11).

[upbeat flashback music swells in and the scene dissolves into the inside of unit 12]
[music fades out]

"Let's park in the back lot. I think that's where the staff parks," I tell reporter Kirk as I pull the plain white news Jeep around the back of the school district administrative offices. I find an open space giving me a view of the door and the whole parking lot.

"His secretary says he's in a meeting until 10:30 then he's heading to Indianapolis," Kirk says as he flips through the background in the file folder sitting on his lap.

He shows me a picture in the article he's been reading.

"Yeah, I know what he looks like. I've interviewed him before, on the NightSide beat."

I zone out a little and turn up the radio because it's only 10:15.

"Brian, is that him?" Kirk asks me as a man gets out of his car and heads into the building.

"I don't know...I didn't get a good look at his face."

"I have to go ask him."

Kirk gets out and approaches the man asking him if he is Mr. H. -- No!

"I think we blew our 'cover'," Kirk laments as he climbs back into the unit.

Several minutes pass and the assistant Superintendent comes out of the building acting normal(that should have tipped me off. Unknown to us this is where the chase actually begins). She heads to a jeep, gets in, and drives off. As I watch, she pulls around to the front of the building.

"She's headed around front. I bet she's going to pick him up," I realize and I throw jeep into drive and pull around front.

The rest of the is like a keystone cops movie. As I'm moving, the assistant hops out of the car and Mr. H. gets into the driver's seat. I look for a parking spot in a limited area, trying to move around people getting into the car. By the time I get the car askew into some sort of parking space, and out of the car, our quarry is on his way to Indianapolis, having eluded this tape toting photog.

Monday, January 16, 2006

When Good Pop Goes Bad!

On SceneJanuary 13, 2006
South Bend - Fame is a double edge sword. When firefighters got the call of a fire at the South Side Grocery they didn't know they would find yet another victim cut the cruel bite of success.

The DamageArriving on scene, firefighters found flames licking up the front wall of the grocery behind several pop machines. Although the fire was doused quickly, a gaping hole in the roof marked the toll the conflagration took on the building.

Knocking down the FireSounds like a normal fire for South Bend's Bravest, deserving nothing more than a few lines in the metro briefs? This is where the normalcy ends.

(From here on out is my fictional interpretation. This is the story I wish had happened.)

The investigation begins"I could not believe what the first responders were telling me what they saw when they got on scene," a fire chief says just minutes into his investigation of the fire. "It appears right now the fire started behind these pop machines here," he points behind the Pepsi, 7-up, and Coke machines which were pulled away from the building to fight the fire.

i don't think we can save the 7-up machine"There's no hope, the damage is too much," a fire fighter playing his flashlight across the charred shell of the 7-up machine.

"I told them this would happen," Joe Wolb says jabbing his stumpy thumb back to the scorch marks on the wall. "I knew he was bad news when he came in with that cocky attitude thinking he was the best pop on the block."

Investigators think the fire was started by the Pepsi machine. The outlet shorted causing the siding to flare up and race up the wall.

It seems Pepsi machine has been despondent as of late. "He's never been the same since his cousin got that TV deal," Pepsi machine's friend Dr. Pepper machine.

The commercial features Diet Pepsi Machine getting drafted by the NFL's New England Patriots. The ads started airing at the beginning of the football season in September.

According to Dr. Pepper machine, Pepsi Machine had been seeing a toaster for counselling. "Every time he saw that ad, he would turn the channel and grumble. He would say, 'That should have been me. I told him everything he knows about acting.'"

Wolb, who lives near the store, says Pepsi Machine had been flickering "more than normal" lately, "I walked in and told the owner he better keep an eye on that machine. He at least needed to unplug him at night."

When reached by phone before his playoff game in Denver, Diet Pepsi Machine didn't have much to say about his cousin.

"He's never been happy with my accomplishments. I think he's just trying to cover up for his shortcomings. He's just one of many regular pop machines. It takes something special to dispense diet pop."

This possible arson could just be another bad decision in a long descent into a life of crime and destitution.

"I've been worrying about him since he went off and had that fling with the Ciggarette Vending Machine," Diet Pepsi Machine offers as a possible explanation of Pepsi's recent run-in with police.

"Last I heard, he was hanging outside a 'Gentleman's Club' in some town out in the midwest. I knew he would betray his brand name. I just hope he can turn his life around."

After surveying the damage inside the store, investigators exited to find that Pepsi Machine had pushed past the gawkers and fled the scene. Police searched the area and only found an extension several blocks away. Police consider Pepsi Machine dangerous and mentally ill. They are asking that if you see Pepsi Machine, do not approach him, but call the police.

UPDATE: January 17, 2006
Police in LaCrosse, Indiana say they were tipped off about the missing Pepsi Machine when they received a tip that someone got a can of Pepsi that had a smoky bitter taste.

The Machine was found hiding next to a Faygo Machine in the local garage. Police moved in and Pepsi Machine was taken into custody. He was last seen being loaded by dolly onto a flatbed truck to be incarcerated in the police department breakroom.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chilling video

It's chilling video knowing the ending.

Pictures of families rejoicing.

I stood watching in horror as the replay came down on the satellite feed this morning. After living a day and a half worrying about their loved ones trapped in a mine, families in a rural West Virginia community get word the word they are alive.

Knowing the awful truth to follow I think, "Oh my God, those poor people."

With the flicker of a slate and the beginning of a new tape the rejoicing turns to images of grief.

Here's just one story:

[T]heir joy turned instantly to fury.


The devastating information about the dead shocked and angered family members, who had rejoiced with Gov. Joe Manchin hours earlier when word spread that 12 miners were alive. Bystanders applauded as they saw McCloy brought from the mine early Wednesday, not realizing he would be the only one to make it out alive.


But late Tuesday night, families began streaming out of the church, yelling "They're alive!" The church bells began ringing and families embraced, as politicians proclaimed word of the apparent rescue a miracle. The governor was among those who announced there were 12 survivors.

Hatfield blamed the wrong information on a "miscommunication." The news spread after people overheard cell phone calls, he said. In reality, rescuers had only confirmed finding 12 miners and were checking their vital signs. At least two family members in the church said they received cell phone calls from a mine foreman.

"That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center," he said.

I've never been on any story exactly like this one. I have been on stories where family members have given us information that may not be readily available from "Officials". We either treat this information as background or give it the modifier "according to so and so".

The facts have not all been fleshed out, but if(as according to the story) you have the governor telling you the miners are alive, how much more confirmation do you need? Unless the governor said he only had gotten the information from the families, the governor counts in my book. That's not to say I wouldn't get suspicious if, after awhile, new information failed to trickle out.

I hope the critiques deserved for the press are aimed at the right spot. In the little I've seen, it appears the blame goes into the continued publication and broadcasting of the wrong information. The media did not give the wrong information to the families. The families unwittingly gave that out.

For example: I was watching a replay of Geraldo's live interview of some family members who had just come out of the church celebrating. He asked them why they were so happy. They replied they had been told the miners were found alive. Geraldo asked several times "Who" told you this. As he is trying to figure out what's going on you hear the bells ringing and more people come out of the church rejoicing and calling family members about the good news.

The downfall came when the wrong story was left to linger for several hours and no new information came out. Being a journalist, I would be aghast if this happened to me. I know there is a lesson to be learned and I hope that we learn it. I don’t think the solution is to not report the news, but to be more aware as events are coming in live. Reporters need to temper reports like this by reminding people this is unconfirmed information. I think the media outlets burnt the worst on this are the print outlets who have early deadlines and can't easily change their reportage.

Bottom line, the circumstances played against both the "live/gotta have it first" mentality and immovable deadlines faced by today's media. We just need to be aware of these limitations and make sure our reporting reflects these limits.