WHO IS THE NEWS CAMERAPERSON
It is a known fact that Native Americans used smoke for communication. Then there were letters. Writing enjoyed a reign of many millennia. Then the magic intervened! The radio started to tell you everything once you tuned in. What magic! This magic that opened the door for a new age… Sadly the reign of radio did not last as long as writing. Before long, the device that combines the sound with images, the television, emerged. In a relatively short time TV took the seat of honor in all houses and offices. The images and the sounds supporting these images broadcasted on this magic box have become the most important source accepted by every soul on the planet! The power of images gathered the masses behind the messages and affected the habits of people.
So what does a news cameraperson do?
The news cameramen produce the images which are sine qua nonelements of the TV news.
In Turkey, as with any profession related to TV, the profession of news cameraman was first started in TRT, the government television channel. After more than twenty years, private TV channels also took their place in the game. Our colleagues started to work also in private TV channels. I think this suffices for the history of the profession in Turkey.
By the way, I firmly believe that all of our colleagues, no matter whether they work in public or private TV channels, are all in service of the public.
Let us try to answer the question: who is the news cameraperson? In an Award Ceremony held by News Cameramen Association, Süleyman Demirel, 9thPresident of Turkish Republic told me: “A news cameraman must have high vision and must be an enlightened man. As the eyes of public, the News Cameraman needs to see the fine details of the job he/she is assigned, what it means to public and what is its importance. Or else, the public will surely fail to see as well. For this reason a news cameraman must have a high level of intellect.” I endorse this statement. The most important quality that any practitioner of our profession must have is the perspective to see the core of the fact. When we are assigned to a job, can anyone tell us what are those details that we need to convey to public? Well this is the key point of the job. Let’s open this up.
Television is a product of teamwork. Each member of the team has their unique role and contributions to fulfill. We will talk about the contributions by a news cameraman. We can exchange opinions as well as tips and clues about the job during our meetings in news center before the mission. Similarly we can exchange information and opinions with our colleagues during the execution of our job. But sometimes, when events escalate too rapidly, everything is laid in the hands of the news cameraman. An event may start, develop and end within just seconds or a panic situation may occur. In any development where the lives are at stake, the masses may panic for the sake of their lives. Most importantly a development which cannot be seen by others in the chaos and panic but which is a vital news piece may occur. We can multiply the examples. All in all, we can find ourselves in situations where we cannot be in contact with any single soul. At such points it is our duty to rely on our own initiative, knowledge, quick-thinking, and bravery to gather the images of the event we will report. In such cases the public can only be informed in proportion to our skills and knowledge. I believe this paragraph sufficiently underlined the importance of such main characteristics of a news cameraperson like the ability to take quick and correct decision, to take risks, knowledge, vision, agility, intellectual level, bravery and quickness.
Let us open it further. Our profession is very colorful. You can find bits of nearly every other profession in a news cameraperson. Let me give you some examples: When we report a class action lawsuit, we become lawyers defending rights of sufferers. If we are reporting a fire, we become firefighters as well. We need to know where to stand and what types of risks involved. In warzones, we become soldiers. We need to know how to take cover and to be able to estimate from which direction a bullet may come, or where the bomb may fall. Where we can be safe, how we can get some food. We need to know and take precautions and measures to survive so that we can report.
In sum, we need to understand a little bit of every profession.
Another aspect of our profession is its physicality. We sometimes get beaten, injured or even killed in our attempts to report the facts to the public. Are we prepared for such risks? I would like to share an impressive example of this aspect; I have been working in the News Center of TRT for about eighteen years. TRT News Camera Service has a memorial wall for those that we lost in service. Under a sign writing “our martyrs” there are five photographs of men, men I knew, men I worked with and men we lost in service. My point is, at any time the news camera service has a maximum fifty to sixty employees and has already lost five people. How grave is that? This shows that the risk of getting killed during professional life is 10%. This is the rate of fatalities only. What about personal injuries? A survey I conducted among the very first representatives of our profession in Turkey, in TRT news camera service, and it had the following results: The proportion of those who experienced an accident on duty is 85%, those sustained injury 80% and most importantly the proportion of those suffering from occupational injuries and illnesses is around 75%. I believe no other profession would produce such horrible figures. So why to put up with such a life? To become a celebrity? Absolutely not! How many news camerapeople celebrities do you know? We are the anonymous faces of the TV. We are “behind the camera.” Well, what about the compensation? Do we get a pay rise when we capture special images upon taking such high risks? Nope. That’s not the case either. So what drives us? What is our motivation? The answer is the curiosity. The curiosity to show what is not seen by the general public, what is hidden from people, and to reveal facts. I believe each and every one of our colleagues shares this curiosity. When we achieve our mission and show the facts for the entire World to see we become the happiest people in the world. By the way, another result of the poll I referred to above showed that the rate of individuals who stated that they would do the same profession if they were to born again, despite horrible consequences of the job, is 95%!
I do not want to bore you with all these numbers. But the interviews I conducted gave some very intriguing figures which I feel must be shared. An average news cameraperson travels around two million kilometers throughout their professional life. The cameraperson normally visits around seventy to eighty countries in the life for duty. They report an average number of 10 wars. A very large part of the duties they are assigned to cover the events that guide the history of mankind. For this reason their memoirs help the historians a great deal. I urge all my colleagues to write down their memories.
Ours is such a profession I cannot stop to talking about it. Let me speed up with some aspects: to have excessive knowledge on the technical infrastructure of broadcasting is a must for our colleagues in Turkey. Capturing the images is just one step of the job; we also need to transfer those images to our centers from possibly anywhere in the world. We are equipped with suitable knowledge and means to overcome such difficulties. So, it is a must for all of us to closely follow the technology to facilitate transfer of images.
No matter how fast-paced the technology is; the weight of the equipment does not lessen at the same rate. We need to do regular exercises and keep a good form to avoid at least some consequences of occupational exposure to their weight.
Another important aspect of the job that must be underlined is the artistic view. We do not randomly point the camera for shooting. We have a deep knowledge on many aspects of the 7thArt such as Frame, light, filters, and audio. Under any circumstances, it is both our instinct and professional discipline to apply such knowledge.
We personify ourselves in the object-glass fitted on front of the camera to maintain an objective approach. In fact we don’t have any other choice. We cannot show something that does not appear. So it is shown (by us) therefore it exists! The most important principle of journalism, being objective, is taken from this aspect of our profession.
Perhaps everybody does not know but the most important difference that separates media business from others is the fact that the quality of the camerapeople, photo-journalists, TV and paper reporters directly affect the quality of the business. In any other business the process is top-to-down, i.e. from top executives to down to obtain a perfect good or service. The outcome is determined by a flawless production chain created and governed by the top executives. However, in media, the product is brought by the professionals at the bottom of the chain such as camerapeople, photo-journalist, TV or paper reports. If they do not bring in a quality product, the managers’ and directors’ hands are tied.