Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami? What Tsunami?

I have been fascinated today watching the video of the tsunami that struck Japan after the 5th most severe earthquake ever recorded. Nothing short of awesome, the pictures have once again provided notice of what a tenuous grasp we have on life. "Here today, gone tomorrow" is a possibility we each live with. Anyone who has logged more than a couple of decades in this world probably knows someone who was the picture of health one day and deader than O'Malley's cat the next.

Our mortality isn't what I approached my keyboard to write about this morning; but it's tough to consider what is going on across the Pacific and not reflect on the temporary aspect of life. What I really want to pontificate about today is the amazingly weak news coverage of this tsunami's collision with Hawaii.

I guess I have simply become so used to 24/7 video coverage of, well, just about everything that I am surprised when coverage of a "big" event isn't forthcoming. The fact that there didn't seem to be a television-grade camera collecting images of the event in Hawaii is more than a just little surprising. In skipping around from network to network trying to find at least one of them providing decent coverage of the impending catastrophe in Hawaii, I couldn't believe that not one of these news-gathering operations had any quality video. One shot that was being shown on several networks looked as if it came from an ATM security camera. It was a grainy, static shot of a street and a couple of buildings.

I've been to Hawaii; I've watched the local news there; I've seen quality video. Where in the hell was everyone this morning? We see real-time video shot from a chopper of every police/bad guy car chase in California, but not one such chopper shot from Hawaii this morning. Nothing, nada, zero, zip, zilch, goose egg. No real live feeds at all, really, just some fuzzy security camera video.

I was also amazed that some of the all-news-all-the-time networks were barely even covering the Hawaii event. I saw a lengthy piece on Lindsay Lohan on one network and a talking-head debate on the Wisconsin union uprising on another. What!

For me television news is often an oxymoron anyway. I don't expect much from it, certainly not any details. Evidently TV producers recognize their audience has the attention span of a new-born puppy. Oh, look, something shiny. Apparently any story lasting more than 60 seconds just isn't TV friendly.

A pet peeve of mine is a story that does last more than 60 seconds, but they only have 30 seconds of video, which is shown in a loop as the reporter reads the story. If it's a story with some legs, they are still showing the same 30-second loop three days later as they do follow-up pieces.

I was offered my job at American Media on 9/11 – yes, that 9/11. That day happened to fall within the possible incubation period of the anthrax attack American Media suffered in which one employee died and others  were hospitalized. Because of this, I had to go with everyone who was in the building during that period to be tested and pick up the pills for treatment. Departing the treatment center, I walked into maybe 15 assorted TV crews and their cameras. The shot of me exiting the building was used on one South Florida TV station's coverage of the anthrax story for at least a week. I didn't even work for American Media at the time. Why was that the only video they seemed to have?

I have never understood why you take a video camera to a location and only walk away with 30 seconds of video. You are already there with a camera; why not invest another five minutes and shoot more video? No reason beyond laziness. As for the Hawaii tsunamic coverage, it was early morning; so maybe the camera guys just weren't awake yet.

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