Monday, December 11, 2006

Who Polishes The Best Turds?

Or rather, who best polishes the simple turd? According to the Turdpolisher's blog description:
Turdpolishing is slang we TV photogs use for turning an utterly worthless story into something that sticks to video tape -- polishing a turd. Be careful or you'll get some on you.

A perfect case-in-point is a bit from this Turdpolisher entry, Got AIDS?, about trolling for news only the suits can use:

Can I tell you... the only thing worse than attending a poetry reading about AIDS is actually having AIDS. But it gets better, the poets are 11 years old. What do these kids know about AIDS, how one contracts it, lives with it, or prevents it? Luck was on our side...we were late. We got there just in time to shoot the winners getting their checks. But there's still that nagging need for a story tonight.

Having just produced a network shoot this past Saturday, I was reminded, yet again, of just how elaborate the T polish can be applied.

See this hardworking crew dress a set for instance. The crew used-up about an hour of good manpower time creating a curtain to block light so that they could pop-off a couple of interior shots, a couple of shots inside a filthy shack. Of course, you simply can't get a good shot with full sun blaring right into your lens, whether you're using a $150 DV cam from Circuit City or a customized Betacam, as this crew was using that can run you or your network 50K or more.

We were not there to do a story about poverty though, so the camera crew could light and frame to capture a "nice" setting anyway they saw fit, conveniently ignoring the ramshackle squalor our interviewees were living in. (Filth and grime and poverty? What's that to a feature story about overcoming anxieties!? But I diverge. I was just the hired hand on this one. The folks in NYC want a story about an anxiety disorder, that's what they're gonna get. It's not the place of a freelance producer to even THINK about contributing to the editorial direction. You show up on time, you smile and nod, and you ship the NY desk their tapes immediately. That's what they want from us folk on "the ground." Nothing more. Nothing less.)

So here's your case for "real" citizen journalism. And this does not mean just giving a newsroom of highly educated journalists a DV cam and a lesson on iMovie, as only when the stories bubble-up organically from the ground, by any means necessary I suppose, and then go straight up to the suits, and not the top-down method by which we're accustomed to receiving news, will turd polishing become less important. Only then will the TV news audience begin to recognize a genuine turd for what it often is -- the crap or non-news item or PC bullshit or outright lies (WMD) it often is.

And will the print folks ever be able to simply catch up? Should they even try to catch up with video? Should writing and video be mutually exclusive? Tune-in to the blogosphere to find out more. Exciting times we do live in, folks.

NOTE: Do not miss Turdpolisher's short story either, The Blond and The Klan. Hilariously underwritten in a loopy style perfect for capturing the sheer lunacy of a Louisiana local news station. Get this guy an agent!

1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

Thanks for the kind words, and the link.

It really sucks when you see the big boys "doctoring" a scene for a story.

The Blonde and Klan was just something I threw together. A fictionalized account of a story I covered once. I'm in the process of "prettifing" in hopes of publication.