Amy Bowers
TV Talk

Woe Is Us!

Is it just my burned-out and discouraged friends, or is it the collapse of the entire broadcast industry?

We are angry, we are outraged, we're disturbed and afraid. We whine about "the ever-shrinking market for freelance chumps!"

I am sick of rejection, I have skills!!! But the market has changed, and my skills are not valuable except once in a while.

I pitch story ideas, I wait for the pager to go off, and I jump when the cell phone rings.

Freelance Chumps are Not Needed!!!! Staffers are laid off!!!! Hundreds of the best producers and technical staff take the buyout!!!!

Management will not flinch.

Little cameras are great!!!!

Photographer Joyce Fay took the animal adoption photos for Albuquerque Animal Services that run in the newspaper. The Animal Humane Association also sends pet adoption photos to the newspaper. "They own a [consumer] digital camera and someone/anyone on the staff uses it to make photos for the Journal. They couldn't see the difference until theirs appeared on the page opposite the ones I did," Joyce told me.

Joyce's pictures are professional, they are well composed, well lit, technically clean, expressive and beautiful. So, what did the directors at Animal Humane do? They said to their person who made the amateur snapshots, "What kind of camera do we have to buy you so that your pictures will be as good as Joyce Fay's?"

"Free wasn't the issue," Joyce explains. "It's just not knowing there is a difference, not only between film and digital, but between a photographer and somebody who's not. And then, when they saw theirs next to mine they assumed it was the camera, not the operator, although that assumption didn't keep them from yelling at my friend."

Someone sends me a formula for singing The Blues. It says, in part:

Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical Depression, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You can't have the blues in any place that don't get rain.

We've actually had some rain in New Mexico, but since we love and appreciate rain, can I still sing the blues?


Had me some work, baby
Had me some work for ABC
Had me some wildfires
And a guy named Wen Ho Lee
Then the networks cut back on freelance
And I'm broke in Albuquerque

Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if a) You are older than dirt; b) You are blind; c) You shot a man in Memphis; d) You can't be satisfied. No, if a) You have all your teeth; b) You were once blind but now can see; c) The man in Memphis lived; d) You have a 401K or trust fund.

Damn, I was losing my eyesight, but now I can see really well. I have a SEP retirement account. I do not have the right to sing the Blues.

The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch--ain't no way out.

The freelancers here have skills. We have equipment. We shoot soccer games, legal depositions, dance recitals. We shoot the Pepsi Challenge, paid programming, and Krispy Kreme grand openings. We make videos for the National Labs. We can write, research, interview and feed. We're here when a broadcast needs us.

I pitched a story about capital punishment that was accepted, and then rejected. We're cutting back on freelance they said. Can I sing the blues? Naw, I have a way out. I could become a freelance Lethal Injector.

Some of us shoot because we love to shoot.

Four years ago, David Snider shot a boxer named Bee Scottland. This month, Bee was beaten so severely in the ring that after briefly going into a coma he died. David was able to use his footage to acknowledge some thoughts of a young man who was now a memory. The video launched a very moving and complete television program.

Even if you have a small video camera and edit software, probably ain't nobody gonna pay you up front to shoot what you want. But look at it another way. Nobody's gonna tell you what to shoot. You shoot for your own satisfaction, and if they buy it, doesn't that make television journalism less autocratic? True, it depresses the day rate, but you gotta be depressed if you're gonna sing the Blues.

I don't care how tragic your life, if you own a computer, you CANNOT sing the blues...

Hang on, lemme try THE HIGH LONESOME BLUES:

I love my sweet sweet darlin'
I love my baby but he's not around
I shot him all his stand-ups
Made sweet love
And now he's gone

Disclaimer: These opinions are my own and couldn't possibly be anyone else's. Since I don't live in St Louis, this column is probably just a rant brought on by clinical depression.

Also: please write if you know "what kind of paint do we have to buy you so that your paintings will be as good as Michelangelo's?"

Joyce Fay's animal adoption website is

Amy Bowers
Contributing Writer

Write a Letter to the Editor
Join our Mailing List
© The Digital Journalist