“Knight of the Tripod”


Selection from a larger 1933 article written by an Earl Theisen in which he is waxing poetic about the news cameraman. Of course Mr. Theisen neglected to mention that those photogs he lauded spent more of their time either getting to their story location or just plain waiting around on subjects than actual shooting…

“…An order for tomorrow’s make-up from the newsreel editor to his cameraman, an order to get a story for the screen! It is this command that takes the newsreeler to places where often his life hangs by a thread – where the risks are against him. He faces more danger than the subject he photographs.

Whenever you find conflict, or trouble, or lives being lost – there in the maelstrom you’ll find the newsreeler gladly doing his duty for the picture-going public. Where you find a daredevil gambling with his life, there you will find a “Knight of the Tripod.” His element is action! And by action he lives!

Today, within a few hours you may see on the screen events from all corners of the earth; thanks to the perseverance of the newsreeler. War in the Orient, a flight in the Arctic, or the newest of the new are put on the screen in an unbelievably short time. Time is an important thing to the newsreeler; he will steal, break bones, blacken eyes – anything to be first with his picture to the screen. To be the opposition newsreel is his law…

…[The newsreels] their appetite is for blood and thunder. The deeper flowed the blood, the deeper waded its cameramen. They lived for the scoops they could score…

His “opposition,” or as we would say, some of his brother newsreelers, called him a “dirty double crossing buzzard.” To him that appellation means as much as a decoration does to a soldier. It is an award; he glories in its distinction. It has served to urge him on! It means that he always puts the picture “in the box” regardless of the means required to do it. He serves the public with news while it’s hot. And for that his brothers call him names!

George J. Lancaster, with a merry eye, recalls the time the Secret Service were called to the wharf in San Francisco in 1915. With true newsreel spirit, Lancaster held on to the camera leg so the opposition camera would not fall into the water, while pushing his opposition, Jean Castle, overboard. Lancaster got his picture while Castle got only $75 for a new suit of clothes.

And it was forgivable when it was known that “all’s fare, etc.” in the pursuit of hot news.

The newsreeler’s common enemy is whomever interferes with his pictures; his personal enemy is the opposite reel. To get by a patrol cop they will get together and start a rumpus somewhere in the neighborhood and when the cop comes to investigate they will sneak past the lines, but behold the struggle among themselves when the photographing begins.

They are a wonderful bunch!”