By Scott Baldwin
It an educational rite of passage that is supposed to help launch a college student into the real world. For me, though, it was a cruel awakening to the fact that I had just wasted the last several years of my schooling. I came to the realization that I had made the wrong choice in majors. My major was Communications.
Looking to jumpstart my career in the broadcasting field I was hired to do an internship at WPVI-Channel 6 in Philadelphia. As an intern, I went back and forth between Philly and their sister station in Trenton but spent a majority of time in Trenton.
It was June and I had arrived on my first day with voracious enthusiasm, telling myself I would make a great first impression. Upon stepping foot into the station I was quickly whisked away with the videographer into the news van and assist in the field with my first story.
The story: the murder of a toddler.
Not what I expected so early on in my tenure as an unpaid lackey.
We arrived to the scene of the incident; a motel that made the Bates Motel look like a five-star resort. At least the Bates motel had an ice machine and didn't rent by the hour. One feature of the motel, which I will never forget, was the communal outdoor microwave. I stared at it wondering how many items that shouldn't have been nuked for three minutes made their way into this rusty device. What does happen to rocks and firecrackers when cooked next to a TV dinner?
The reporter, whom I had yet to meet because she had arrived to the scene early, was walking from decrepit room to decrepit room talking to the down-on-their luck dwellers and I suppose the occasional prostitute with time left on the room. Obviously, I wasn't as nicely dressed as I thought because she had come over, mic in hand, and asked me my feelings on the recent turn of events. When I told her I was the new intern she just shrugged her shoulders, went "Oh," and walked away without introducing herself. So much for the good first impression.
I followed the videographer and the unenthusiastic reporter until we spoke with a 14 year old who answered the door in only sweatpants. The following day the story had to be re-edited after it was discovered he charged with the murder. I had been standing three feet away from a murderer who talked to us as casually as someone would when giving their order to a waiter.
Most of the stories I worked on at PVI weren't of this caliber. A good amount were mainly fluff pieces and that is the reason why no matter how much reporters say they enjoy working in the field they are lying. They want to be the talking head in the air conditioned studio asking the field reporter, who is tied to a tree to report during a hurricane, just how bad the weather update. The reporter let me know this through her profanity laced tirades, some aimed at me, for not getting the lighting right with my large reflector. "Just blind me," she would yell.
She had no idea how I really wanted to follow through on that request.
I also learned firsthand the fakeness of the news. During another story involving a motel and dead body, the EMTs were wheeling the corpse down the flight of stairs on their gurney. The body fell off and rolled down several steps. An EMT observed the filming and pleaded with our cameraman to have the event re-filmed." The videographer agreed and the EMT was unhappy when I said, "dead body coming down the stairs, take two."
That summer, I also had my strangest of conversations with a woman I met while walking to the station.
"Hey," she said.
"Hey," I said returning the pleasantry and continued to walk.
"Hey," she said again. And once again I gave her a simple, "Hey."
After walking five steps she said, "Remember me?"
"No," I say in a more cautious tone.
She then lifted her sunglasses to reveal an enormous black eye to which she added; "You remember me now?"
Now panic struck, I said, "Lady, I don't know who the hell you are."
And with that I ran back to the station as quick I ran away from the idea of pursuing my major.
I now work in the field of special education; and while I can deal with some very rude kids, I am not being cursed at by an angry reporter tied to a tree.