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Old 07-30-2009, 02:38 PM
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So here's the deal. I left the TV news business a year and a half ago, and at first was thankful to have a life again. Don't get me wrong. I love the craft. But I was also tired of being treated like a dog. Anyway... Earlier this year it finally caught up with me. I had basically been on a seven year adrenaline rush and then overnight... Nothing. I could actually stay home on a stormy night. I didn't have to worry about getting called out at 2:00AM anymore. I could eat my lunch in peace!

But when it caught up with me I realized that I had never dealt with much of the images I saw, the pain and chaos that I covered. At first it was the gruesome stuff that came back to me. I remembered specific faces, specific crime scenes. I couldn't sleep.

Then it turned into the stuff that was more psychological. Not so much gruesome images as much as just seeing people in pain, and the depravity of humanity. It was the 90 year old woman being put on a bus at the New Orleans airport going God knows where because the city was flooded after Katrina. Images of a ghost town with only a few types of people... Residents, criminals, first responders, and media from everywhere. There's just something strange about looking at a destroyed American city. It hasn't left me, and I doubt it will.

I could go on and on and on... But I wrote this to simply ask you guys... How do you deal with it?

Now that I'm on the outside it's almost unbearable. The average person living their daily life has no idea what happens right inside their own city. And I have realized even my closest friends and family have no idea what I really did on a daily basis. It's like having an alternate life that no one will ever really understand.

Sorry to vent so much... It's just therapeutic. I don't know if most people never think about this, or it's just that they never talk about this.

But dealing with everything that I've had to see... It's not something they taught me in journalism school. And it's not something anyone ever really talked about at the two shops I worked at.

And I really think it needs to be addressed.
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Old 07-31-2009, 05:17 AM
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Before working in TV news, I was a newspaper snapper for close to 28 years. During that time I spent 15 years with my local search and rescue squad as a body recovery diver (we are on a BIG river) and with the road accident rescue team.

Needless to say Ive dealt with a lot of bloody awful stuff over the years, and I found the best way is simply to talk about it with mates you trust, and who have been down that path you are taking.

Mates who you know will never ever pass on anything you have said; such as colleagues.
The shrinks call it a "debriefing". We just call it a couple of quiet beers with trusted mates.

I found that worked well for me. Still does.

HTH
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Old 07-31-2009, 09:14 AM
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FLotog,

That's a very moving story. I have to be honest, things didn't bother me near as much until I got out. I didn't lose sleep over stories until a few months ago. I think that's because my adrenaline finally stopped pumping after seven straight years and I was forced to finally process what I had seen and done. Since I can tell you are a good writer I'd encourage you to write your experiences in a journal so you can look back on them later in life. Good luck to you in your career.

Ben,

Thanks for your advice about finding a good friend to talk with. Talking about my experiences has really been the only thing that has helped, but the only problem is that since I'm on the outside I don't have as much contact with my former colleagues as I did. I do have some close friends I can talk with though. They don't completely understand, but they care. And that's all that matters.

I guess I wrote all this to encourage those on the inside to never forget that what you see on a daily basis isn't a normal experience. And if you never talk about those things while you're in the business (I sure didn't), then one day if you get out it will all come out.
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Old 08-01-2009, 10:05 PM
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Mate,
Anytime.

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Old 08-02-2009, 10:35 AM
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Cool Not sure if this helps...

I've been in this game nearing ten years now, and to start with, the adrenaline and hyperactive nature of news got me caught up in it all. I thought everyone didn't care and they coped by telling themselves that no-one was watching at home. Some stories, the bigger ones, the more tragic and desperate, were not real to me. I was treating it like playing playstation, or watching a movie, glazed eyed and determined to do my bit correct, that's all I concentrated on.
As I grew in broadcast camera news gathering, I realised there were real people at the end of my lens, really hurting. I remember editing one item about year-end crime stats, and mixing to every still pic of the young dead I'd covered that year. Each and every one of them will only be re-used as still in the past tense. 2-5 seconds each of remembrance in a minute thirty passing commentary.
It's a sad and cynical world we work in, no doubt there.

I took a few hints from other photogs and cops I knew as well, built them into my 'sanity' routine. Not that a guy with my username can profess any remaining sanity!!!

Vent within your mates, outside of work, and do it regularly! Preferably with people who know the industry, and can accept you for just venting. Once you're vented, let it go. Water off a ducks back and all that.
When you get home from shooting, irrespective of the time, change out of your work clothes. It's like a new face for family.
Keep a spare pair of socks in your kit bag - again, another way of feeling fresh after a potential hell-shoot.
This one may sound daft, but try putting aside time for charity or volunteer work every year. Do something to feel better about yourself that has no strings. It benefits the charity and your inner ability to reconcile yourself!!
Your mental health is paramount - you might not realise it till you get out, but some things are only worth shooting for sensationalism, and we are storytellers first. Leave the full frontal horror for paparazzi with no moral obligations.

Photog3535, now you're out and it's hitting home, may I suggest talking to someone - anyone, wife, shrink, even a fellow ex-shooter. Beer is good too. Expect nothing conclusive and recognize it's better out than in. That's all you can hope for, but it's better than nightmares!

I'm guessing there are no real answers because we all deal differently.
I'm can't pretend to have any real clues cos I'm still in it, but I am wondering if and when I chose to get out, will I have type 2 diabetes, a crook back, and hyperactivity disorder back in the real world? Will normal work hours be hard to adjust to? What IS it like to eat with your family?
Novel idea.
Normality and an office isn't ready for me!
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Old 08-13-2009, 11:22 PM
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It's been 8 years since an injury stopped my daily shooting and confined me to a desk day to day although I still love to grab a camera and get out when I can.

For the most part much of what I saw can be chalked up to "just another dead guy." I tried to treat everyone with respect and compassion but in reality the carnage became just a backdrop for the job. FLotog I don't want this to come accross the wrong way but you are going to need to develop coping mechanisms because you are going to see alot worse before your career is over. This is not me saying "buck up soldier" this is true concern that if you don't figure out how to distance yourself you will find yourself in a world of psychological trouble in a very short time. If you haven't been to a bad scene yet my advice would be take a look at some raw video in the controlled confines of an edit bay so you won't be as shocked your first time in the field.

However there are 2 events that still haunt me. One was a 2 year old child whose mother was murdered and the child was missing. I picked up the scene on my way to work on a very cold and snowy midwest day I spent a full day at the scene and searching with the PD. After I went home that night 10 or 12 hours later they eventually found the kid beaten and stuffed under a house. I had been standing by the openning to the crawl space for most of the day not 25 feet from where they found him. He survived but is minimally functional. 15 years later I still wonder what would have happened if I had dropped a battery and glanced under the house at 9am in stead of the canine guys finding him on a second pass 15 hours later.

The other event was the OKC bombing where on the day it happened it was just another big fire, but it caught me out of the blue a year later at the anniversary ceremony when a kid pulled out a bugle an played taps at about midnight after we had finished our west coast live shots for the night. I was lucky enough to work with an old shooter who had worked through some PTSD issues after Viet-nam and spotted mine right off. He practically forced me to go talk to his counselor. It worked wonders and really cleared up the sleep problems in about 2 sessions and we were completely done in about 4 weeks.

Which leads me to my suggestion to get some professional help from someone who knows what they are doing. The guy that I went to as a PTSD specialist and worked with cops, paramedics and ex military. He was the on call guy for our local ambulance service. He was a PhD and was not into drugs and I think in my case it worked well. Talking with others who have gone through it is good too. I find that cops don't appreciate that we see the same things and can be a bit high and mighty that they have more issues than we do. But paramedics and fire guys are usually pretty receptive. The station that I worked with did group debriefs after the bombing and then again for those who ended up dealing with 9-11.
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Old 08-14-2009, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Old Shooter View Post
I find that cops don't appreciate that we see the same things and can be a bit high and mighty that they have more issues than we do. But paramedics and fire guys are usually pretty receptive. The station that I worked with did group debriefs after the bombing and then again for those who ended up dealing with 9-11.
I still feel guilty for recognizing that I'm dealing with some PTSD issues. For the very reason you mention... Cops aren't very understanding. And the truth is most people don't understand. When I was in the business I didn't realize that as much. But over the last few months I have begun to realize that most people never put two and two together to realize that someone takes the pictures they see on TV.

For me... It's memories from my post-Katrina coverage. It's weird... My experience wasn't about seeing a lot of dead bodies down there... But witnessing a destroyed American city still gets to me. I remember driving down a deserted I-10... Looking at downtown New Orleans and realizing that there's hardly anyone there. Starving dogs in the streets searching for food... For me it was a ghost town. And then a week later I was on vacation in Savannah, Georgia. It was like night and day. One place was complete and total destruction, the other a center for tourists where no one was thinking about Katrina. But my mind stayed there.

I think to a certain degree it always has stayed there. Of all the memories I have in TV it's the one that stands out. For me working in TV had become a typical job. I was jaded to much of what I saw. But when our managing editor sat me down before I left and said, "Don't do anything to get yourself killed," it sunk in.

I can't imagine what covering OKC would have been like. I shot a story a few years ago about a kid who was one of the few to survive the blast in the daycare center. He was in Shreveport at the Shriner's Hospital getting treatment. He could barely carry a conversation because he suffered brain damage. It was one of the few stories when I was in the business that got to me at the time, and it still does every time I go back and watch it.

I also can't imagine what it would have been like to cover 9/11 in New York. There's actually a very good book out called Covering Catastrophe. I read it a few years ago... It has interviews with photogs, reporters, and producers about their memories of that day.

Most of us will never cover anything that large, but I agree with Old Shooter. FLotog, you'll need to develop some coping mechanisms, and I'd highly recommend that you do it now rather than later. Find someone to talk to about what you see. Because you will see worse. And if you don't deal with it... It will eventually come back to haunt you.

I stuffed my memories down for seven years. It wasn't until I got out of the business that I even realized how much the things I had seen bothered me.

But I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything in the world. I don't want to be hardened to what I have seen. It's honestly developing a compassion inside of me for the suffering of humanity that takes place all over the place... right in our backyards. That's the biggest thing I've taken away from my experiences...

Most people don't know what happens inside their own cities. I don't want to be that type of person. I don't want to become blinded by my own American suburban experience. I can't change the world, but maybe I can be a positive influence on someone. That's what I'm hoping for anyway...
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:49 AM
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Many many many years ago, Network TEN had a deal with the NSW Police. They would shoot the news stuff, then shoot a separate pack for the police full of everything that could never be broadcast. The Police would use the stuff at the training academy to get the incoming recruits used to the idea of what they would encounter in the field. The vision was also used for the coronial inquiry.


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Old 08-17-2009, 10:11 AM
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Often times, I'm quite prone to detaching myself emotionally to a degree where I'm unsympathetic towards the people and victims around. I have a tendacy to get as close as possible to capture the shot of the grieving relative with the natural sound that comes from him or her.
That is exactly the reason I got out of the business. I respectfully disagree with your apparent belief that such a hardcore position is a good thing. Emotional detachment is necessary to do the job. But being unsympathetic can lead to incredibly unethical actions. At what point do you draw the line between doing your job and being respectful? If the grieving person is insistent on avoiding you, will you continue to pursue them? How about recording them clandestinely?

We are all adrenaline junkies. It comes with the job. If we weren't originally hardwired that way the job changes us...

But that doesn't mean we have to glorify it. Do the job, tell the story, but for God's sakes... Please never forget that the subjects of the stories are real people, and the visual medium is incredibly powerful. We have the power to create and to destroy. Some things need to be destroyed. But all too often those on the inside of the media forget their power, and unintentionally destroy the wrong people.

FL, I'm not saying that is what you are doing. But I am at least advising you never to forget these questions... It's something I think everyone in the media should ask themselves every day.
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Old 08-20-2009, 11:11 PM
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That is exactly the reason I got out of the business. I respectfully disagree with your apparent belief that such a hardcore position is a good thing. Emotional detachment is necessary to do the job. But being unsympathetic can lead to incredibly unethical actions. At what point do you draw the line between doing your job and being respectful? If the grieving person is insistent on avoiding you, will you continue to pursue them? How about recording them clandestinely?
I never claimed possessing a 'hardcore' mindset is necessarily a good thing. I'm just telling you that's the way I feel when I'm shooting. I do however believe I do my job more effectively. I start to get drunk (for lack of a better term) off the tunnel vision of looking through a one inch b&w screen that I begin to behave selfishly. I become hungry for that great, moving shot that it might come off as 'disrespectful' in other persons' eyes but at that moment I could care less. I have always held a cynical disposition towards society and have turned grossly jaded (most of the time).

I usually try to rationalize these tragic events by excusing what happened as karma if you will. I'll think 'Oh, he was intoxicated and speeding' or 'Well, that guy was a drug dealing thug anyway'. When it comes to children though that's an area I don't dare attempt to make sense of. Children are the innocent ones who do not deserve to die. But the dude who gets killed in a rollover-f*** him. He should've been doing the speed limit.

To answer your question, if the grieving person is making an obvious effort of avoiding me, than absolutley, I'll consider my actions and grab the 'pod and flip on the extender.

Thank you 3535, for asking these questions and allowing me to clarify.
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Old 08-21-2009, 10:31 AM
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FL... Like I said before... My idea with this whole post was more about asking questions... There's a great rule my chief photog used to live by. He never second guessed what happened out in the field because he wasn't there. I can't give any hard and fast rules simply because every situation is different.

I just think it's important for all of us to remember that there are real people behind the stories we cover. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but there is a line from an old poem that really got my attention awhile back... "Every man's death diminishes me." I know what you're saying about those who "deserve" it. The truth is, my conscience is not really bothered by putting DWI perps on TV... Or those who were caught red-handed in murder.

But for me it's still tragic. It's sad to me that someone can make one mistake, a HUGE mistake, and change their lives forever. They will certainly have to pay the consequences of their actions, and one of those is being on TV. But it's still sad to me.

But where I draw the line is when stories relate to victims. The things that still bother me are having to ask family member's of victims if they want to talk. It's amazing to me how many of them do, but every time I had to ask I hated it. Every time.

Like I've said a few times now... I don't have all the answers on this... But I think it's very important for us to keep asking the ethical questions. The truly dangerous thing is if we ever stop asking questions and become totally comfortable. I think many in the media have done that, and in doing so they have forgotten how much power they have, and use it irresponsibly.
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Old 08-23-2009, 05:13 AM
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I think many in the media have done that, and in doing so they have forgotten how much power they have, and use it irresponsibly.
And I feel that is why many in the community get upset at us being at the scene of a tragedy.

Even the local cops here have to be told again and again we do not film dead bodies.

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Old 08-27-2009, 10:32 AM
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But I think it's very important for us to keep asking the ethical questions. The truly dangerous thing is if we ever stop asking questions and become totally comfortable. I think many in the media have done that, and in doing so they have forgotten how much power they have, and use it irresponsibly.
Amen 3535. I got out after 25 years. You have spoken volumes with this thread, and you're spot on. There's nothing I can add, for you've said it all.
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Old 08-28-2009, 12:00 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement... Writing about all of this is the only way I know how to process it. I'm thinking about writing a book on Katrina, and tell many of the smaller stories that have been forgotten. There are too many negative stories to count, and everyone has focused on how the government failed. But I think equally important is to remember that when the government failed, average people stepped up to the plate. God willing, I'd like to publish something. Because I think stories that big, which many if not all of us have been exposed to, don't ever need to be forgotten.
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Old 08-31-2009, 11:25 AM
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Out 7 years and I haven't lost a wink of sleep over what I saw in my 13 years. What does that say?
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Old 08-31-2009, 11:54 AM
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There are too many negative stories to count, and everyone has focused on how the government failed. But I think equally important is to remember that when the government failed, average people stepped up to the plate.
And that's the way it is supposed to work and always has in this country. It's about individuals stepping up to the plate and helping themselves and their neighbors. The govenrment tells everyone to NOT count on services, but we as a society have gotten away from self-reliance. We live in a instant gratification - individualized customer service oriented society now. There is no way that government will ever be physically capable, much organizationally capable of meeting the immediate needs of that many people in a truly catastrophic incident. Anyone who thinks they can or will are just fooling themselves. There will be another Katrina someday and the same thing will happen. The media will continue to state the obvious from the cheap seats and the results will repeat themselves. The only thing that will break that cycle is for people to once again take personal responsibilty for themselves and their families.
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Old 09-01-2009, 09:41 AM
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And that's the way it is supposed to work and always has in this country. It's about individuals stepping up to the plate and helping themselves and their neighbors. The govenrment tells everyone to NOT count on services, but we as a society have gotten away from self-reliance. We live in a instant gratification - individualized customer service oriented society now. There is no way that government will ever be physically capable, much organizationally capable of meeting the immediate needs of that many people in a truly catastrophic incident. Anyone who thinks they can or will are just fooling themselves. There will be another Katrina someday and the same thing will happen. The media will continue to state the obvious from the cheap seats and the results will repeat themselves. The only thing that will break that cycle is for people to once again take personal responsibilty for themselves and their families.
Agreed. One of the reasons I want to write about Katrina is to remind people of what happened. Average people stepped up to the plate... I agree that's the way it should be. And you're right, it will happen again. I fear we have learned nothing.
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Old 09-04-2009, 06:59 PM
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Out 7 years and I haven't lost a wink of sleep over what I saw in my 13 years. What does that say?

Same for me after more than 21 years.
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Old 09-04-2009, 11:19 PM
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Today my story bothered me. An 18-year old was struck and killed by a train as he was driving to work. He wasn't suicidal, just bad timing... there were no gates and the lights may not have been working.

I'm 20, so maybe that's why it bothered me. But I didn't like shooting the story, nor did I like seeing his family/friends. They walked right by us and, despite a reporters insistence, I refused to shoot them walking by. I did shoot them from a distance (maybe 200 yards) but I couldn't do it as they walked by.
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Old 09-05-2009, 05:45 AM
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And I would have done the same as well.

If you need to PM, feel free.

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