Mark Neuling
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 my coffee 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 and 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, just have 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 screen shots.

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 it’s 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.

More coffee.

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 and 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 killed. 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 new title.

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. He’s 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 evening constitutional.

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 job 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



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