Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CREDIT (end)

Weaver caught me in the parking lot. “Lemme guess, three-day suspension. You, not Lou.”

“Yeah. I don’t get it.”

“It’s how Finch operates. I tried to tell you to let me handle it.”

“Well, next time just stop me before I give a shit about a story.”
“No. Next time, don’t leave your story with Lou.” Weaver smiled and punched my arm. “Brock, you’ve got something special. A passion and raw talent that doesn’t come along often. Don’t let this thing with Lou keep you from caring about your work. That’s what makes it special. Lou’s jealous. He couldn’t crank that out if you did it for him.”

“I did crank it out for him.” I tried to laugh. “And see where it got me.” I just wanted to go home and cry on Susan’s shoulder, but I sucked it up for the boss. “Payback’s a bitch.”
I had already started concocting ideas to torpedo Lou’s story the next time we worked together. His stand-up would look lovely a shade of sea-sick green. Or better yet, there had to be a way to embarrass him in front of his fans at the next live shot.

“You know I can’t let you do that, Brock.” Weaver had obviously seen the wheels turning in my head.

“That bastard deserves it.”

“He’ll get what’s coming to him. Guys like that always do.”

“Yeah, but I want to be around to see it.”

“You got the short end, and that sucks. But you gotta let this drop.” Weaver put his arm around my shoulder.

“Drop it? What about journalistic integrity?” I pulled away from Weaver. “Lou plagiarized. Where’s the penalty for that? What if that was to get out somehow?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not saying I would . . . I’m just saying.”

“Okay, say this 'leaks' to the paper. There’s a big investigation. The station ends up with egg on its face. The only answer for Percy Finch is to fire both of you. Try getting a job after that. And after what you saw today, how sure are you that he’ll do the right thing? You’ve got to let this go and get past it.”

“I know, but how? I put my heart into that story.”

“And that’s why it was good. This business needs more guys like you. I’ll make you a deal.” Weaver’s tone brightened. “Ever heard of NPPA Boot Camp?”


“Every March, the National Press Photographer’s Association holds a week-long training camp for photogs. The best of the best from places like KUSA/Denver, KSTP/Minneapolis, WBZ/Baltimore fly in to run you through the wringer. It’s a tough week, but it’s one that will change your life.” Weaver studied my face. I guess he liked what he saw, because he continued, “They just wrapped up this year’s camp. You keep working hard and keep your nose clean, and next year, I’ll send you . . . If you’re still with us.”

“What about Percy Finch?”

“It’s next year. He’ll forget about this by then, if you can drop it.”

“As long as I don’t have to work with that son of a bitch the day I come back.”

“I don’t think Lou will be asking to work with you anytime soon. Now start your vacation. Treat Susan to a room in that fancy hotel of hers.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

CREDIT (part 2)

Weaver caught my shoulder from behind as I stepped through the doorway. “Now’s not the time, Brock.”

“Oh, it’s time.” I answered over my shoulder.

I zeroed in on Lou’s smug anchor’s grin. My cork was about to pop. I checked my hands – no fists.

“Th-thanks.” Lou leaned forward in his seat as he watched me enter the room. His gaze darted between the news director and me. His grin dimmed just a bit. “Uh, Brock did a heck of a job shooting it too.”

“Yes. Good job, Brock.” Percy Finch fanned a limp-wristed salute my way.
I was torn. Should I play it cool, give Lou a little rope, and watch him dangle before he hung himself, or –

“You sonofabitch!” Choice made.

I dove across the corner of the table. Lou scrambled from his chair, but I managed to grab a handful of his tie before he could hide behind the ASSMAN. Ken nearly tumbled out of his chair trying to dodge us. Two women producers screamed.

Weaver leapt with me. He threw his arm over my shoulder and across my chest, and he pulled hard to keep me off of Lou.

“Tell ’em, you son of a bitch! Tell ’em what you did!”
Lou’s eyes swung nervously from me to Weaver to Ken, and back to me. “What? Uhh, I – ”

“Brock.” Percy Finch stood, smoothed his tie, and buttoned his suit coat. “What is the meaning of this?”

Ken wrestled Lou’s tie from my grip, and Weaver backed me across the table.

“That no-good son of a bitch ripped off my story!”

Lou backed flat against the wall and tried to disappear.

“Tell ’em! Tell ’em how you put your lock-out on the end of the Sonic story! Tell ’em you piece of shit!”

“Brock, calm down.” Percy Finch’s voice remained calm as he ran a hand through his starched hair.

“I’ll calm down as soon as this plagiarizer gets what’s coming to him!” My hands were balling themselves into fists again.

“We’re not going to handle this in the morning meeting.” Percy Finch turned toward the producers and reporters at the table. “If you’ll excuse us. Both of you, in my office. Now.”

Percy Finch leaned way back in his chair and faked his most sincere smile. Until now, I had steered clear of the diminutive Director of News. At five-foot-three, his less than impressive stature mirrored his yes-man managerial abilities. Percy Finch hated conflict. “Gentlemen, can’t we solve this without fisticuffs?”

I couldn’t contain myself. “Lou had absolutely nothing to do with that story last night.” My hands waved wildly around my head as I ranted. “I shot it! I produced it! I edited it! And he goes and slaps his name on it!”

“I think I’ve heard quite enough from you, Brock. I’d like to hear from Lou.” Percy Finch bobbed back and forth in his chair, his stubby fingers intertwined across his tie.

“Well,” Lou started tentatively, avoiding eye contact with me. “We needed a kicker for the late news. Brock had this story.”

Percy Finch smiled.

“Brock’s story didn’t have a KALX lock-out on the end.” Lou looked nervously at my hands. They were folded in my lap.

I waited for what I already knew was coming.

“Brock was gone. So I recorded mine over the last line.”

I gripped the arms of the office chair to keep from flying across the room.

“He’s not even a reporter!” Lou explained, desperation in his voice. “He couldn’t have locked it out even if he was here.”

Percy Finch nodded. “Brock, stay.” He held out his hand. “You see, a logical explanation. Thank you, Lou. You may go.”

“What!” I jumped from my seat. “Is that all? ‘Lou, you may go?’ He took credit for my work! That’s plagiarism!”

Percy Finch leaned across his desk. “Lou, would you close the door on your way out, please?”

When the door closed, Percy Finch stood and shut the blinds all the way around his glass office. That couldn’t be good, but at least no one would see me pummel the runt.

He took his seat behind the desk. First, he studied the doodles that covered his desk calendar. He rummaged around his top drawer for a pen, and doodled another running cowboy stick figure.

I waited, breathing heavy to keep from shouting.

“Brock,” he finally said never looking up from his doodles, “what are we going to do with you?”

“Me? I’m the victim here!”

“You’re not a victim. You are a photojournalist. You shoot stories for reporters.”

I squeezed my lips and gritted my teeth. I wanted to take his head off.

“Lou is an anchor.” He continued. “He tells stories.”

“Well excuse the hell out of me for stepping out of my narrow job description. Isn’t part of being a photojournalist telling stories?”

“Well . . . yes, but you tell them with pictures and sound.” Percy Finch looked me dead in the chin.

“That’s exactly what I did last night! And that son of a bitch took credit for it!”

“Son, everything on tape here is KALX property. It’s not your work.”

“So it’s okay for me to record my name on one of Lou’s stories?”


“It’s the same damn thing Lou did. Only he did it to me.” I pounded my fists on his desk. The blast nearly rolled Percy Finch out of his chair.

“Son,” Percy Finch fought to suppress the startled look on his face, “if you don’t learn to control your emotions, you’re going to have a heart attack before you’re thirty.” He leaned way back in his chair again. “I’m going to help you with that. You’re suspended. Three days, starting now.”

“Suspended! I do the work. Lou plagiarizes it. But I’m suspended!”

“That’s twice you’ve almost punched a co-worker. I can’t have you threatening my staff without penalty.”

“What about Lou?”

“Lou didn’t threaten anyone. He’s fine.” Percy Finch stood and opened the blinds all the way around his glass office.

For once, I was speechless.

“No hard feelings.” Percy Finch winked. “Leave the door open on your way out.”

to be continued

Friday, April 16, 2010


I strode into the station the next morning confident in my abilities for the first time. ASSMAN’s drunken congratulations the night before was just what my sagging attitude needed. With Sam’s carhop story, I had finally broken the jinx. I had shot and edited a good story, one people would not forget when they switched over to Johnny Carson’s monologue. And Susan and I had agreed that I had been an ass, but an ass that deserved a second chance if he learned to pick up a phone when he was going to be late.

“Nice piece last night, Brock.” Sarge patted me on the back.

“Thanks, Barb. I worked hard on it.”

“You finally got that white balance thing down. All the colors on the school board meeting were right.”

School board? She was just jealous. After all, she had turned down the chance to do Sam’s story.

“Good story last night, dude.” Dick Hicks high-fived me. “Can’t believe you got it in. The ASSMAN was pretty hot you shot the thing.”

“Thanks. Lou helped get it in the late show.”

“Yeah, you guys rocked it.” Hicks headed to his desk to make his daily crime blotter calls.

I loaded Icky, with its duct-taped viewfinder, and the rest of my gear into the Turd-Brown Taurus.

When Weaver pulled in to the parking lot he was wearing a smile almost as big as mine. “Helluva job last night!” He pumped my hand. “I knew you had it in you! How’d you talk Lou into working it with you?”

“He stopped by the edit bay as I fini – What do you mean, talked Lou into working it with me?”’

“Nothing.” Weaver gave me a quizzical look. “I just mean you two knocked it out of the park with that story last night.”

“Two of us my ass. I shot and edited it. Lou just made sure it got back to the tape room.”

Weaver’s smile began to wane. It was obvious a light bulb was blinking inside his head. And it wasn’t one he wanted to see. “You . . . didn’t see the newscast last night, did you?”

“No, I was buying flowers and arguing with Susan.” My stomach knotted with a sudden realization that all was not well with Sam’s story. “Why?”

“You need to see this.” Weaver headed for the newsroom door.

“But, I know the story backwards and forwards,” I explained as I trailed him. “I worked on it all night.”

Weaver led me through the empty newsroom and into to the feed room. Lights and l.e.d.’s blinked and fluttered on complicated-looking electronics that were crammed, ceiling to floor, in two heavy racks opposite the door of the tiny room. Two wall-mounted video monitors flashed pictures from network affiliates around the country, and CNN. A third ran the KALX off-air signal. The fourth showed the competition, KELC.

In six months, I hadn’t bothered learning much about the room, except how to get video from a live truck to the switcher, and which tape deck the ASSMAN used to record the newscast.

Weaver grabbed the shuttle knob on the ASSMAN’s recorder and scanned backwards past the last commercial break in the 10pm newscast. Sam’s face wiped in over an out of focus shot of the Sonic Drive-In sign. She sped through the story doing all her spins and tricks backwards at sixteen times normal speed until Lou’s smiling face beamed from the anchor desk.

Weaver stopped the tape. He gave me a this-hurts-me-more-than-it-does-you look.
“What? Did the director fat-finger the switch and punch color bars over the beginning?” I pulled my hand nervously through my mullet. “What was so important that you can’t just tell me?”

“You’ll see.” Weaver sighed as he punched play. Lou delivered a sugary intro with a gleam in his eye and tossed to the story.

No photog credit. No big deal, the story had gotten back late. Maybe the graphics girl didn’t have time to whip up a fancy lower third graphic with my name on it. Photogs never got credit for their work anyway. That’s just the way the business worked. We were paid for our work, reporters for their name and poofy hair. Nothing to get bent over.

The story rolled, just like I had edited it . . . until the last shot. Sam’s lips moved, but the words didn’t match, neither did the voice. It was much deeper. Manly.

It was Lou’s standard lock-out. “Reporting from the Sonic Drive-In, Lou Jameson, KALX News.”

Sam disappeared from the screen.

Weaver paused the tape and waited patiently for me to react.

He didn’t have to wait long.

“That son of a bitch.” I whispered in disbelief. My heart began to race as I fought to keep my words measured. “That no-good piece of shit,” I said a little louder. My hands balled themselves into tight fists.

Weaver put his hands up hoping to keep me from boiling over. “Brock, stay calm. Let me handle this.”

Crack! My hand sent itself straight through the hollow-core door of the feed room.

“Stay calm?” I dug my hand out of the splintered hole in the door, and wiped a thin trickle of blood from my knuckles on the thigh of my faded Levis. “That no-good bastard stole my story! I’ll have his job, that plagiarizing son-of-a-bitch!”

“Brock! Calm down and let me handle this.”

“I’ll calm down,” I mumbled “just long enough to knock that bastard flat on his ass.” I made a bee-line for the conference room where reporters and producers gathered each morning to plan the day’s coverage. I could feel Weaver on my heels.

“. . . and hats off to Lou Jameson,” a perfect mid-western non-accent drifted into the hallway outside the conference room, “for a masterful bit of storytelling on that Sonic story last night.”

I poked my head in, just in time to watch News Director Percy Finch draw his midget fingers to his forehead and wave a flaccid salute toward Lou. Finch's small crowd of producer drones clapped dutifully, while Barb Wilders and Dick Hicks tried to avoid his gaze. At the end of the table nearest the door, Lou Jameson beamed in the adulation.