FEW DAYS IN THE LIFE
CNBC News Photographer
OK I admit it, some days are slower than others and to pass the
time I like to check out various web sites like Sports Shooter,
Medialine and b-roll.net. There are always lively discussions
on the boards, some posting are flakes, others are old-pros sharing
their expertise, and then there are the newbie’s asking
questions that many of us found answers to many, many moons ago.
One question that was recently posed was what a typical day was
like for a news photographer when working with a reporter? Here
is an amended version of my reply, what the heck, I tore the
original post apart and spit-polished the thing until it shined
like a new penny. Now in order to be completely above board,
my response is actually a compilation of several days meshed
together to give the reader a composite of what a “typical
day” is like.
There are typical days but most are anything but routine.
My day usually starts around 5:30 AM, that is if I can haul
my scrawny old carcass out of bed. After breakfast I drink
and check out b-roll.net and figure out what pithy comments I
want to make.
Try to get out the door and the van loaded by 6:50 for the 35
to 40 minute drive in to work. Did I remember my camera, lunch
cell phone in that order?
Pray that no semi-trucks have flipped on the freeway closing
three lanes of traffic. Never bother to check traffic reports,
never gotten into the habit of doing that.
Arrive at work – more coffee. Check my emails – why
can’t freelance crews understand that the network doesn’t
pay in 30 days, they’ll be lucky if anybody even looks at
their invoices in that time frame. Get another email from former
TechTV colleague to join their LinkedIn account. FAX hours to supervisor
400 miles away for the days I wasn’t in the office.
Discuss hair and make-up with Telemundo anchor.
Make note to swap out problem deck at viewing station.
Look over on-line version of the San Francisco Chronicle - news,
business and sports. How is Barry doing on the home run chase?
Chat about golf and kids with morning show anchors as they pass
my desk heading to make-up or more likely, the bathroom, as they
drink a lot of coffee on that show. Meteorologist is especially
attractive – oh to be single and 36 again. Never watch the
affiliates’ AM show. If nice people won Emmy’s this
station would have a lobby full of the little winged statuettes.
I’m given my assignment for the day. Who is the latest millionaire
CFO that’s been busted for backdating stock options? Search
web for photos of said perpetrator. Shoot thumbnail sized pictures
and then company web site. Have run out of creative ways to shoot
The boss passes over a high-tech gadget for me to film. Magnified
in my viewfinder I note that the earpiece of the little phone
has earwax stuck to it. A few swipes from my handkerchief and
worthy enough to be photographed. I actually like shooting small
things that blink, partially because I get to recruit pretty interns
from the community affairs department to help demo the item. They
didn’t think they’d get their big break in television
so soon. Oh to be 26 and single again.
Shoot a stand-up for one of the reports and there you have it,
a typical day - and then there was yesterday.
Early in our shift The Today Show calls asking for a story, or
what is known in television vernacular as – a package.
It is to be a day-of-story. It needs to be shot, written, edited
fed to New York by the end of the day.
Shooting for The Today Show is an honor and quite a feather in
the cap of our little bureau. But as often happens with assignments
from them, on the day that the story is to air, an interview
with Hilary, or Obama, or Rudy runs long and our package gets
It’s always a disappointment, but hey, that’s the
way the news biz works.
A flurry of phone calls and emails are sent out to any potential
candidates who might want to speak with us about our topic. Our
producer hits pay dirt
and books an interview; it is actually a follow-up with some people we spoke
with in an earlier story some week’s prior. We hit traffic on way to
the location. It's 9:45 AM for goodness sake! We decide to forgo all the bells,
whistles and lights and shoot outside. Our subjects are a father and son who
waited in line two days to buy an iPhone. There is a beautiful shady spot a
short walk from the father’s office. In order to get clean sound from
the two microphones I am using I have to ask the gardener if he can wait 10
minutes to blow the leaves around. We ask our questions, they walk and talk –the
leaf blower resumes, we head back to the office.
Set up in the Telemundo control room to shoot the stand-up for The Today
Show story. I have five lights arrayed for this stand-up, director of photography – my
I wolf down lunch at my desk while waiting for the reporter, he’s busy
with hits and waiting for quarterly earnings to be released from one of the
major Silicon Valley companies. We bang out stand-ups for two separate packages
on the same story.
I discuss our shoot for Friday with our producer. I get to drive to Napa
and shoot a story at a hundred million dollar winery that hasn’t been built
yet. The producer and I will drive up separately, which means I get to listen
to whatever music I want to on the trip as the new van actually has a CD player.
She’s booked a second crew to shoot the interviews, for me it boils down
to working solo and trolling for b-roll. TV journalism at it’s best.
I will likely collect at least a little overtime due to heavy traffic on
the way home Friday.
Time for another cup of the free coffee they provide around here, there are
obvious reasons why it’s free despite the Starbucks moniker.
We have a guest coming in for the Asian edition of CNBC later in the day.
running behind. Satellite operations in Singapore have his IFB dialed up 20
minutes before the window opens. (An Interrupted Feed Back or IFB allows someone
wearing an earpiece to hear the show while it is taking place, but shuts off
when they speak – don’t ask me how it works, but it does.) The
producer in Singapore calls asking if their wayward visitor is here yet. They
are always incredibly polite, even when they are trying to track down a missing
guest half way across the globe. He’s a regular so he cuts it close.
The guest arrives ten minutes after the satellite- window has opened. I clip
the two tiny microphones to his lapel, frame him up and send him on his way
into the digital netherworld of satellite technology.
I get home eleven and half-hours after I start - not untypical. Doesn’t
leave a lot of time for family, exercise or hobbies some days. I have dinner
with my girls, hear about my wife’s day and take the dog out for his
The package actually runs on The Today Show the next day. Our editor does
an incredible job of weaving video, sound, music and transitions into a cohesive
story that runs around a minute-fifty in length. Not ten minutes after the
story ends, PR from the company profiled calls complaining about the hack
we did on them. Members from the local news affiliate compliment our team
on the story.
We are supposed to be off the grid today – a day to catch up with chores
around the bureau; I may not shoot a frame of video.
I am still surprised at how easy we make it look, typical but not routine.
© 2007 Mark Neuling
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Email address is now – theneulings@Juno.com