Hay’s Daze: No news is bad news

For more than eight years I went around with, well, not a monkey on my back, but more like a hippopotamus on my shoulder. And I didn’t even need a security guard.

Maybe I should explain.

Way back a decade or two when we had actual local TV stations and no one had heard of “fake news” and the world was Trump-less and whole lot more sane, I had a job carrying 30 pounds on my shoulder and shooting people. With a large camera, I mean, which the only way to shoot things.

I worked as a TV news cameraman and as such met a lot of interesting people, went to a lot of interesting places and ended up in a lot of interesting physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics getting treatment. And it’s interesting that my right shoulder is now 2.5 times stronger and 15 millimeters shorter than my left.

As a job, it was very interesting. One day I would be lugging the humongous video camera around in the muck of a pig barn or slogging through a mosquito swamp, and the next, me and my camera would be zooming along in a helicopter or roaring down the Red Deer River on an RCMP speed boat.

Or, it might be four hours in a City Council budget meeting, or a press conference announcing new snow removal policies, which turned out to be not all that interesting. But at least our news crew was relatively safe, if you don’t count being attacked by pigs or mosquitoes.

Thing is, these days it’s getting downright dangerous, not to mention, weird. Being in the news business, I mean. A short while ago, right here in the venerable Advocate there was a story about a how a reporter and cameraman were doing interviews outside a library in Oakland, California when two men came up and demanded their camera and then shot their guard in the leg.

OK, hold it. “Shot their guard”?? Yes, it turns out that things have gotten so sketchy for the news media that according to the article “some television stations have hired armed guards to ride with news crews”. Apparently, since morons have realized those cameras are worth big bucks (my Sony Betacam was $55,000) they have taken to stealing them right out of the cameraman’s hands.

Ultimately, the security guard was OK, and he had managed to blast a few rounds into one of the robbers who was arrested whilst being treated for gunshot wounds at an Oakland hospital. Oh, and they got their camera back, but if I know TV guys, the worst of it was that they weren’t able to film their own robbery.

And it gets weirder. In the very same issue of the paper there was another article headlined: “Live On-Air Licking of TV Reporter Sparks Outrage”.

That’s correct. A TV reporter was doing a “fluff” piece of reporting on an event when some meathead dude came up and nuzzled the reporter’s neck and licked his ear while he was talking to the folks at home on TV. The reporter just kept on reporting. Oh, and by the way, this was in Toronto.

Of course it was. Licking a news crew is the Canadian version of stealing their camera and shooting their guard. Vive la Canada, eh?

The worst I ever got as a videographer was being flipped the bird or yelled at, except for the time I was doing an on-camera report on a farm and a donkey wandered over and butted his head right between the ole uprights, if you get my drift.

At least it made the station blooper tapes.

Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.

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