Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can not. Can too. Can NOT!

The day started easy enough. The XDCam rollout is progressing smoothly. Yesterday on my dayside shift, I lent a hand and some computer experience to Marvin Stone. Somehow Marvin had pulled the short straw and been assigned the task of making copies of XDCam material to be used in our upcoming edit training.

My reporter for the day had a sweeps story already in the can and was putting that together in-house. Woo, it looked a lot like I was going to have an easy day at the office.

Just as we were about to sneak out for lunch, the assignment desk pulled me to head over to LAX and cover a story related to Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko was the former Russian Spy who died recently of radiation poisoning. Tom Clancy has written slicker ways to bump players off the espionage board, but this is real life and the results may have been less elegant, but basically the same.

Litvinenko is permanently out of the game.

So, that's why I found myself out at LAX yesterday afternoon.

Traces of the radiation that killed Litvinenko was found on British Airways jets that Litvinenko had flown before his death. That's some seriously alarming real-world spy game activity.

None of the planes were local flights, but we went to British Airways to see if we could get anyone to go on camera with their reaction to the story.

Few of the passengers we talk with had heard anything about the British Airway connection. Nobody seemed overly concerned.

By "nobody", I mean the passengers themselves.

The airline representative who came out to talk to us (off camera) was pretty concerned about me shooting tape of the counter, the employees, and the passengers in the British Airways ticketing line.

I was told that it was British Airway's policy to not allow videotaping of their property or employees.

I was calm and professional, but I can't begin to tell you how irritating it is to have people who should know better try to tell me what I can and can't shoot.

With our deadline constraints, I didn't have enough time to go into it fully with the Airline representative, but I quickly pointed out where I stood on the matter. The airline terminal is a public place. If I can see it in public, I can shoot it. There are no "rights" to privacy when you're in public and your company policy doesn't affect me. I don't work for your company.

The only exceptions concern the TSA passenger screening areas.

We've gone through this before (probably on every photog's blog). I'd bet there's not a news photographer alive who hasn't had a similar confrontation. I'm always pretty calm about it, but I got the impression the airline representative wasn't expecting opposition.

Come on, don't shoot anything relating to British Airways? I'm not trying to be mean, but for my own protection if the conversation had continued or if the situation had escalated, I'd have rolled tape on you.

We talked to passengers, got our B-roll shots, cut our piece, and put it on TV. I'm still tempted to write a letter to British Airways, but the representative we spoke to may actually know we were in the right. It wasn't a flattering story, not good for business and all. She could have just been trying to bluff us into not doing our job. Good luck with that.

As far as I'm concerned, it's simple. Legally and simply, can too.


Alice said...

Heh, I've had my own non-media-related problems with BA. Screw 'em, man. Glad you got your piece.

newshutr said...

Don't you just love" the "Excuse can't shoot that..." mantra that people recite when they see you??

Had it happen to me today on a public street.

Gives me an idea.

beFrank said...

lukku cairi - I don't hold the whole airline responsible. I just believe this one supervisor was trying to do her job. It's too bad that she was mistaken.

newshutr - I can't speak for every photographer, but I wish people could understand that I'll willingly not shoot you if you object (and you aren't the focus of the story). I'm not inclined to do anything different if you threaten me or try to dictate what I can shoot in public.