Friday, July 13, 2007

Hit and run

As eager as I am to resume my career in actually covering the news as broadcast news photographer, there're some aspects of the job that I'm in no real rush to get back to.

Wednesday night Elizabeth Sandoval was hit and killed by a car in Glendale. The driver never stopped and is still at large.

It was almost 10:30pm and I had been sitting around the station without an assignment. I was waiting for a breaker, but didn't really expect anything to happen that late into my shift.

I should have known better. Expecting the unexpected is what I'm supposed to call normal. Just rack it up to recent patterns of slow news days and the station not rolling me out unless the story was pretty big.

I don't mean to trivialize the death of a person, but we don't cover every traffic fatality. Honestly, I don't even know how the decision is made. That's not my call and I just roll out when they tell me.

Almost 10:30pm when I left the station in Studio City. The timing couldn't have been any tighter and I got thrown a curve ball. On the way to the location, I was told a reporter was right behind me with another photographer.

My job was now to just get to the location and set up for a liveshot. I was in one of our combo SNG/microwave trucks and my last breaking news liveshot was months ago.

I got the signal established. The reporter and other photographer arrived on scene shot video and got a statement from a police official. It felt like I was running through sand the whole time. Yeah, it's been a while since I was out in the field, but we made it on air.

One live hit at the top of the 11:00pm newscast and we were done at the scene. I dropped the mast and we packed up. The total time there may have been less than thirty minutes. I was never more than twenty feet from the truck the whole time and was never closer than half a block to the spot where Elizabeth Sandoval's body lay in the street.

In the short time I was there I was focused on just trying to get my job done. I left and didn't know much more than I knew an hour earlier before I had the assignment. That didn't bother me until this morning when I looked at the photos I had quickly snapped.

In the third picture (you might have to look closely) near the front of the police car, you can see the covered body of Elizabeth Sandoval. It was just a random quick wide shot of the scene. Not a big deal, it just caught me off guard. I just try not to be that casual about taking pictures in these circumstances. As a photographer (video or still) I'm responsible for everything I shoot. I don't want to accidentally add to any one's grief and I don't want to be surprised by anything I put on TV (or my blog).

Just a small hit.

I'll get over it, but even though I understand the nature of what we do and feel like I'm just doing my job as best I can. There're some feelings of guilt and frustration. We do what we can, but the run and gun coverage of such a tragedy feels like so much less than Elizabeth Sandoval deserves.

I gotta go.


Jackie Gasper said...

I don't even know where to begin with my comment. I guess I will start by saying that Elizabeth was my sister. I really don't know why I started searching online for information on the events of this day. Probably just to get proof that it did happen and that it wasn't a dream. Weird that I am still doing it seven years later. I knew that location very well because I grew up in Glendale and I grew up walking that street because I went to Roosevelt Middle School. The night of my sisters vigil was the first time I had been to that area in a long time. My older half sister pointed to the spot where my sister laid the night she passed. She knew because I called to tell her the night it happened and she rushed over to the area. I was told she was covered by a white sheet provided by one of the neighbors in the area because the accident stripped her of her clothes. Yes, it is difficult to see these pictures, but for some reason I need to look at them. I can't explain it.
I understand that it is your job to cover these types of situations. You have to do it. Thank you for not letting it go by as just another story.

Bryan Frank said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. From time to time, people involved in the stories that I cover find their way to my blog. As difficult as it might be to look at the photos, I can easily see how they might help provide a small amount of closure, even for a tragedy such as the loss of a sister.

The pictures will be here. As long as you feel the need to see them, you're welcome to come back.

Just promise me that you'll talk to friends or other family members if seeing the photos aren't helping you.

It's difficult at times to do my job, it would make it more difficult to think that in trying to show parts of the story that don't make the news, in any way added to someone's grief.