myself, I really do. I hate when I accept a bad assignment.
I took a crummy assignment and now I'm stuck with it.
are things I feel fine about doing, while on assignment:
I feel fine about driving on the sidewalk. I feel okay about
saying: "THEY told me to park here," and then parking wherever
I feel like it.
mind knocking on someone's door, to ask whether they would
like to talk. I phone and email newsmakers all the time,
several times a week, sometimes several times a day. By
the time they return my call, or see me on the street, they
probably think they know me. I ask people for their email
address, their cell phone numbers. I schmooze with them
as they remove their wristwatch at the metal detector.
I play squash first thing every morning with the movers,
and take a steam after that with the shakers, but no, that's
not really "me."
fine about saying: "Hi, I'm from ABC News, may I ask you
a few questions." I can look someone in the eye and ask
it out in a media gang bang, and I've been known to follow
attorneys through court buildings, dispatching their location
by walkie-talkie to TV crews. I'm as aggressive as I have
phone a "Live Guest" with a wake-up call, and it's nice
to bring them coffee at 4:50 a.m. when they arrive at the
OK about removing my shoes and covering my head to enter
somebody's place of worship. I know a CBS crew who refused
to wash their feet before setting up for an interview with
someone who was supposed to be a Holy Man. They left without
not too crazy about putting make-up on anybody, but I can
stand it, and I do it when I have to. I'll smooth a collar,
fix someone's hair, and I enjoy straightening a necktie.
People need to look good on TV, and not distract the viewer
with some speck of something in the wrong place. I try to
be professional about it.
people up all the time with the wireless microphone. Most
audio technicians clip the transmitter on the belt, and
then string the microphone from the bottom of the shirt,
up, with the help of the interview subject. This fishing
technique doesn't work for me, so I start at the top, and
drop the wire down, letting gravity do its thing.
to wire the Mother Superior at a convent this way, several
times a day, for several days, on an assignment behind cloistered
walls. Eventually, Mother Mary Frances would see me approach
and say, "Wire me up!!" pointing her arms out from her sides,
in a glorious outpouring of trust.
placement can be pleasant for certain guy-techs. At the
Emmy Awards one year, a very smooth CBS sound tech was gleeful
about placing a microphone on the strapless gown of Geena
Davis. He slicked his hair, checked himself in the mirror,
and swiveled up to Ms. Davis with the mic. I really think
he tried to enjoy the experience, but his hands were shaking
so much he had to give her the rig and ask her to place
things I would never do on assignment. I spent a few hours
with the family of a missing child who was presumed abducted.
Their kitchen was filled with food brought to their vigil
by friends and neighbors. What kind of person would even
think about eating those offerings? Not me. It would be
like shooting video of relief workers at a disaster scene,
and then eating their donuts.
I saw the New York Times reporter accept some food and water
from the firefighters at a wildfire in Colorado. Maybe she
didn't know there was a convenience store just up the road.
Maybe she was really thirsty.
where would I draw the line?
one thing, I would hate to be the person who asks someone
who just became a celebrity, "Now that you've been kicked
off the island, would you pose nude for our magazine?"
have to think twice about working for Doctor Laura. As my
brother once said, while working for a tobacco lobby, "If
you're gonna sell out, sell out big!"
I have an assignment that really bothers me. It's a story
about a toddler who was taken by Child Welfare from her
parents' home because of her extreme overweight condition.
I call the assignment "Fat Baby" but that's really mean.
Others called it "Obese Toddler," as if that shows sensitivity.
Now she's known as the "Overweight Toddler." I can't imagine
how I would feel if my child were referred to by anything
other than her name by people who've never met her.
three, the toddler was said to weigh 120 lbs. when her pediatrician
asked the state to place her in protective custody.
over why we cover this story. What is significant about
the people involved in these events? Why should I work so
hard to book them as Live Guests, or to arrange their interviews?
How will our coverage benefit our viewers?
one thing to persist with most public figures, even those
who became important overnight. But this assignment really
bothers me. For some reason, it's a very competitive situation,
and the stakes seem high. Several news agencies are jostling
over a story that doesn't make much sense. What am I doing,
and how could I do this differently, I ask myself when things
go wrong. In this case, once I accepted the assignment,
probably the only thing I could have done differently was
to have been born a fish.
is no doubt that people are intrigued with this child and
her family, so I persist. I really do.