Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In El Monte, beFrank For CBS2 News!

Don't say, F**K.

I could go through the entire internal monologue, but because of the extra hours I put in at work on Tuesday, I'm behind even further on my last minute preps for Christmas. Plan? Forget the plan. The plan went out the window last weekend when I was too weak to leave the house (well, after I went out to pick up a pizza).

It was my first day back out in the field after being sick for the better part of the last week. Was I recovered and up for anything?


I was trying to cowboy up. The rain had stopped and it really felt like I could handle a plain vanilla general assignment shift.

Turns out I was right.

I worked with a reporter for the first half of the day. We shot a story, cut a piece, did a live shot, wrapped and I was heading back to the station. Somehow I happened to be the only photographer available to drive from where I was on the West side of Los Angeles (near Santa Monica) over to Whittier to cover a charity event.

Whittier is not near Santa Monica. It wasn't a happy surprise assignment. Not getting off work early was like a smack in the back of the head. Ouch, but no big deal.

Then they went and hit me with a breaker.

Hostage situation in El Monte. A guy snatched up a kid off the street. Meet a reporter there and do a live shot for the 5:00pm show.

One of the things all news photographers know to be true? If you hope for an easy day because, say, you're just recently getting over being pretty sick or you have a ton of Christmas shopping to do.

It just isn't gonna happen.

I made my way to El Monte and established a live signal. My camera was pointed at the Chinese restaurant where the suspect was holding his hostage. I managed to snag a PIO to do a live talkback with the anchors. It was rough because I was still scrambling to get things connected. He ended up having to listen to the questions being asked over my headset that was tangled up with my scarf.

Rough, but good compelling coverage. I figured it couldn't get any worse.

I was wrong.

Let me point out, I had no reporter yet. He was in traffic, but still on the way. Suddenly a monumental opportunity was presented to me.

Over the headset, a voice from the control room, "Bryan, do you think you could talk live over the mic and just tell us what you see.

What? Sure. Wait. What?

I've been looking for this moment for my entire news career, just not so much today. I'm actually worn out from the running around. I have the feeling I need more rest than I've gotten so far this week. . .but. . .but. . .aww, shoot, you never know when this opportunity might come around again.

Yeah, I'll do it.

Now, technically, I'm not ready. I don't have a monitor set up yet and I don't have a lavalier microphone. I'll have to hold the stick mic somehow and hope they don't want a lot of camera movement.

Things are happening inside the restaurant. It looks as if the police are moving in, but I can just barely make out shadows. Someone tells me I have a shot of the police exiting with the hostage. Okay, I'll take your word for it.

"We're coming to you next, stand by."

No butterflies, but I have an angel Bryan on one shoulder and a devil Bryan on the other shoulder.

Angel Bryan is reminding me (politely) over and over, you can't say, f**k. Not while live on the news. Devil Bryan is drinking a beer and laughing his ass off because he knows the truth. You SHOULDN'T say f**k while live on the news, but the reality is, well, it could happen.

I hear my name. I'm being introduced by the anchors. To my credit, I don't freeze up. I manage to get out a sentence or two about what I'm seeing. The police and rescue personel are moving in closer. I try to describe as much as I can. My brain misfires and I pause to think of a word. The anchors toss me a question. I answer.

They toss me another one. I though they were done, but they keep talking to me. I want to go home now.

They finally let me off the hook and I take a deep breath. Devil Bryan has fallen off my shoulder and is rolling on the ground laughing.

I ignore it because I'm pretty sure I didn't drop an f-bomb.

Yup, just pretty sure.

And that was it. The reporter showed up and we did a hit for the 6pm newscast, then handed off the footage to a night crew and I drove back to the station.


It was a rough day. Memorable, but rough. Paul Magers and a few other people told me I did a good job. The pat on the back felt good. Sure, at the time I felt pretty goofy and I couldn't bring myself to look at the air check, but I'm glad I had the opportunity.

The biggest downer on the whole experience was the fact (which I learned later) I completely missed something while I was on the scene.

During the rescue of the hostage, the suspect was shot and killed. I didn't know. I think a lot of people might feel as if the suspect only suffered an outcome which he should have considered more carefully before taking the hostage. Killing a human being, taking a life, this shouldn't be a casual thing. Not even when the outcome might seem justified by the provocation. I wrote this post with all the humor that I experienced prior to learning of the death involved because I wanted to share my experience from today.

That being the case, I need to share that I'm saddened by the outcome. I wish it had ended differently. I wish they had been able to take the suspect into custody and I wish he hadn't lost his life.

I'm a little down over the outcome. I'm not as happy as I'd like to be this close to Christmas. I'm not happy as I'd like to be writing a mostly humorous post.

There's only one word I can say about it all and I've been repeating it a lot in my head.

I think you know what that word is.


Ken Koller said...

Wow. The Mrs-to-be and I were just talking about this at dinner tonight. Malkoff did it to me at the Freeway fire, stuck a mic in my face live on the air becuase I know alot about airplanes, and we were showing the air tankers. I think it helped that I had NO time to think about it, just went with what I knew. But yes, I had the exact same fear, dropping a s-bomb on the air. I had the unfortunate task of trying to follow an airtanker on camera, with the 2x on, wrapped up in every cable known to man, and talk live on the air for about a minute.
Bummed I missed it, would have loved to been witness to Rick Chambers' replacement's first live shot. ;)

Royal Williams said...

Ok talk about a rough day at work, but atleast you had your moment to shine. Being caught off guard like that I probably would have dropped the f bomb...or not. But good thing you didn't because I surely would've been on of the thousands searching you on Youtube the next day but secretly be proud to have family be apart of the unfortunate few who have utter that word.