Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Celebrity Journalists. The Future Of Journalism ....?

It has been reported today in the Daily Mirror Online HERE that Lord John Prescott, formerly the Labour Party Deputy Prime Minister, English language specialist and secretarial swordsman, has been hired as a "Journalist" on the ITV Morning show, Daybreak.

Having read the quotes in the Mirror online, he says it will be the first time at a Labour Party conference as a journalist. First and foremost John Prescott is not a journalist, and nowhere near ever being one. I am appalled at the way the term journalist is bandied about as if anyone can be one all of a sudden. Especially a Political journalist, where tact, patience, in depth knowledge of the subject ( from a journalism point of view ) and hard work are the prerequisites of the trade.

Secondly, should he be attending the conference with journalist credentials, i hope that he is treated in the same manner as the TV, Press and Radio journalists and technicians at the conference, and wait in line for the interviews, deal with the PR lackeys and generally get pissed around like the rest of them. I would imagine that he will be taking off his press pass and reverting to Lord Prescott at the drop of a nobleman's hat, and his pathway to important people paved with sycophants and arse lickers the like of which the rest of us deal with on a day to day basis, with no interview at the end of it.

Interesting point here ... Will he have spent the previous evening researching his subject or interviewee? Will he be taking his camera crew cups of tea with sticky buns, writing down his journalistic machinations for future reference, taking notes and worrying about the edit and timings for his live slot? Dealing with his Producer and live Director? Or will he turn up with 10 minutes to go, grin for the camera, do the unbiased, probing interview with rapier like journalistic integrity, and then piss off, having reverted to his nobleness and hobnob with the very people he was just interviewing for the morning news? 

I think i know which...

So don't worry all of you journalists out there who have worked hard and learned your trade from the bottom up. His Lordship has it covered. The unbiased gossip and stories from a potential future Labour Government at the Labour Party conference, are being covered by Labour Party Peer Lord John Prescott.

Here's a thought. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone is out of work at the moment. Can he have a go on the camera? Tony Blair as the soundman...?

May the Lord have mercy on our jobs.

Paul Martin.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The News Monkey Strikes.

There is evil lurking in my house. A killer so dastardly i don't want to think about it. In the wee small hours, chaos can reign. when i sleep the sleep of a news cameraman, dribbling, farting and snoring, things tend to go awry. As i sleep, and dream cute cuddly furry animal stories, the news monkey, dressed as the grim reaper, goes on his mission.

I should explain. The news monkey is, you see, my sons stuffed monkey, who sits on the couch in his bedroom, day after day, doing not a lot but watching the daily goings on in our family home. But i think differently. At night he comes to life. For I can see a glint in his eye, and a look that says ...

"I'm gonna make you work. I'm gonna make you get up so early you will think that you never got to sleep ... Ha Ha Ha......" 

News monkey ... evil personified.

I have a theory about this. I believe he is a news monkey, a rare sort of Jekyll and Hyde character, who stalks the land at night, in search of drunks, bad drivers, gang members and idiots. He will wait, biding his time until the drunk gets home, and decides on a bit of toast. The news monkey sings a gentle lullaby to the drunk and as a result of falling asleep, burns his house down... with him in it, while the news monkey slips quietly out the back door, sniggering to himself at a job well done... or medium to well done in this case.

He is truly a bastard. The news monkey makes seemingly ordinary folk do stupid things in return for a breakfast news item. He makes tired travelling salesmen fall asleep at the wheel, whispering to them "Don't stop at this rest area, there's a better one with a Starbucks 30 miles on..." causing chaos to morning rush hour traffic following the resulting pile up.

The news monkey has reportedly been seen by crazed killers creeping away from murder scenes in the dead of night, having supplied the weapon to do the dirty deed of murder, all the while whispering into the suspects ear... "Go on ... Do it! Tell 'em i gave it to you.... you will only get manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility... honest"

Or... take the time he appeared on a street corner, in a hooded top, selling rat poison contaminated heroin to smack heads, who are found next morning in the local park, drowned in their own vomit, still clutching a can of super strength lager and a rolled up cigarette, and a vacant look that says ... "I trusted that f**king monkey"

Beware, for the news monkey can turn up at any time of night, anywhere that he pleases, with a vile intent on making the morning news bulletin from your stupidity or damn bad luck. Don't walk home drunk, for the news monkey will be driving the snow plough as you stagger across the road. He is the burglar who enters the empty school at night and lights a match, and he is the lone gunman on the grassy knoll that nobody ever saw. Evil indeed.

Look closer ... You can see the evil in his eyes.

Trust me. I've lived with this monkey for 11 years, and he still sits there with the same look on his face. But inside i know beats the heart of a news maniac. A sadistic little monkey with evil thoughts. If you see him, lurking in the night, next to your bins in the wee small hours, there may be a chance that i will be next, lugging my camera to film your sad demise at the hands of the dreaded news monkey.

You have been warned.

You can find more on what the evil news monkey is involved in HERE

Friday, 10 September 2010

Silk Purses From Pigs Ears.

Sometimes in the working day of a news cameraman, you are asked to film a story that is, well... Picture challenged. There is a story that needs to be told, but locations are, shall we say, dull.

Power stations .... Dull.

Today I filmed a story about power stations. Specifically, one that hasn't been built yet. There was one next door though so I asked, can we go inside? ... No. Can I get closer to get a better angle? ... Er ... No. Where is the new one being built? ... Next door. Can we go there? ... Oh yes, no problem. Great! What's going on there? ... Er ... Nothing, it's a car park right now.

So you see my point and the frustration of my inner Spielberg, desperate for nice, clean, story telling images for which telly awards will be won, and the warm admiration of my fellow lens luggers. Sometimes it just ain't gonna be....

The buildings were grey, as were the skies, and to cap it all off, an interview with a suit.... In the wind, with a helicopter going round and round overhead. This was followed by a presentation for local people to attend, telling them about the future development on their doorstep. At least we could get some seething masses of indignant locals, rising up against the corporate beast....

No one was there.

The caretaker was though, so we grabbed him, thrusted the mic towards his face, pointed my lens at the bemused man and we demanded answers.

He didn't mind really... But would we like a cup of Tea?

Paul Martin

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Thin Blue Lie...?

I have posted many times on this blog about my encounters with the Police, Police officers from various counties and of varied rank. I have met them in all kinds of situations from calm press conferences, crime scenes, through to public order situations and riots.

As a member of the media i am met with various degrees of welcome, tea and biscuits with a chief inspector to outright hostility from other ranks. It doesn't matter to me, for i have the sword of truth from my camera and the shield of my ACPO recognised Press Card. Or do I....?

I recently read an article by the Photojournalist Marc Vallee, who attended a demonstration in Brighton, West Sussex. In it, he describes how a member of the public had a video tape seized by a Police officer under section 19 of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984, (PACE) and the comments section show a lively debate on that seizure, including comments from the owner of the tape and the Sussex Police Media team response.

Unfortunately, this is the latest, but not an isolated incident. The merits of the above described incident i leave to your own conclusions after reading it, but it would seem that on more and more occasions, the Police seem to make the law up as they go in order to achieve their aims at a specific moment. Evidence of this is spread far and wide on the web. I forget the amount of times i have been told to stop filming or move away by Police officers for various reasons, including, but not limited to....

"Don't film me mate ... i sometimes work undercover." This is the favourite one at the moment, Police officer in uniform, wearing day-glo jacket with Police written on the back, tells journalist that he works undercover.... Nice move.

Legislation and law can be viewed from many differing angles, from the copper on the street making a split second decision, to the working journo, to the activist filming at a demo. Each one will have a slightly differing view on the law as it stands. But my gripe is this... if you are a Police officer, i TRUST you to know what you are talking about. Here is a point... i remember asking a Police Constable if he could tell me section 1 of the Theft Act 1968. Basic bread and butter Policing. He couldn't. The difference between a 9(1)(a) and a 9(1)(b) Burglary?.... Nope, not that either.

My Point? well, before a Constable throws his or her weight around demanding this or that from the press or members of the public taking pictures in a public place, quoting sections under anti terror laws, or PACE etc, the very least they could do is get it right. First time ... Every time. Or don't do it at all until you know what you are doing, because from where i stand, the basics are not even being covered in the knowledge base of your average Police constable. And this needs to change.


Because when I, a freelance TV Cameraman goes to work, I know what i can and can't do under the law. Where i can go, who i can and cannot film under certain circumstances. I know my job. Inside out. And if i don't know, i find out and learn it. Failing that, ten years service in the Royal Military Police gave me a very good grounding in Policing, and the law on what coppers can and cannot do, including the very basics. I have since kept that knowledge and furthered it in my present line of work. Basic coppering skills never leave you if you learn them correctly. Yes, after nearly fifteen years out of service i can still quote section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 because i learned that by knowing it, really knowing it, i would never be caught out.

So if you see me out and about, please remember this...I know my job, but i also, to a large extent, know yours.... So please get it right.

Paul Martin.

An African Adventure.

My ugly mug was recently plastered across, and in return i posted a glowing account of his work on TV News in the USA here on this very blog. I suppose however, that we cannot venture down the road of mutual back slapping without a mention of Christian Parkinson. A fellow news cameraman who lives and works in South Africa for the BBC.

Christian Parkinson ... Lens lugging in Harare.
Reading his blog is a tour de force of newsgathering in Africa, the joys, the people and of course the tragic consequences of a continent sometimes mired in war, disease and famine. Christian has covered these events from the perspective of the man behind the lens. Capturing the very essence of Africa in good times, such as the recent football world cup, to the bad times where countries are falling apart and very nasty men with very nasty weaponry want to kill you.

His travels through the sometimes dark heart of Africa are regaled on his blog with the ease of a cameraman who knows how to write and tell a story, both visually and with the knowledge of what Africa is really all about.

So much so, that Christian has met and is about to marry a local South African Woman, who i hope understands the vagiaries of life as an international news cameraman and the dangers that they bring. Now that's what i call being embedded.....

Paul Martin.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

There's Always One... Sometimes Two.

It's not very often that i get written about. I get shouted at a lot, talked about behind my back sure ... but written about? No. Until now. It would seem that in the good ol' US of A, there is a cameraman with every bit the same thoughts and feelings as me. Namely frustration, anger, the need of a stiff drink once in a while, and a niggly feeling that things should be just that little bit easier in our chosen job.

steely eyed and lantern jawed .... the rugged cameraman look admired worldwide.
Stewart Pittman is his name, and he travels his home range like a prowling cougar, coiled like a spring and ready to document the days news in his part of the TV world. And boy does he let us know what he thinks. As do i ... but Stewart relates his tales with a dry wit and savage verbiage that puts into sharp focus the job of us lens luggers.

He also drives the highways ready at a moments notice to flick the wheel and burn rubber to his next assignment with the skill of Bo and Luke Duke, at the request of his very own editorial Boss Hogg. And let me tell you, if he has a sister like Daisy Duke then i'm going to America for a cultural exchange visit.

It has been said that we look similar, separated at birth maybe, i can understand this. Sauve, sophisticated, Robert Redford good looks ... and a squinty left eye. Yep, that's us, even down to the unwillingness to get up close and personal with a razor blade. It is apparent that both of us have a very similar outlook on life, with it's deadlines, huffy reporters, and the sad inevitability of meeting PR people with zero journalistic ability or know how..... Such is life, wherever you may be rolling.

So, from here in the United Kingdom, it's toodlepip, tallyho, and mind the dog turd on the road in front of you. 

Paul Martin.

The classic cameraman pose... what a show off.