What You Dream When You "Shoot First" and Think Later - Looking Back on 29 Years Behind a TV News Camera
"It is difficult to get the news from poems," William Carlos Williams once wrote. "Yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found is found there."
And yet, as Thomas Wolfe tells us in "The Hollow Men," we love the news in America.
"We love the smell of news that's "fit to print". We also love the smell of news not fit to print. We love, besides, the smell of facts that news is made of. Therefore we love the paper because the news is so fit-printable--so unprintable--and so fact-printable…The news is not America, nor is America the news--the news is in America. It is a kind of light at morning, and at evening, and at midnight in America. It is a kind of growth and record and excrescence of our life. It is not good enough--it does not tell our story--yet it is the news!"
Enter Hank Schoepp, whose lengthy career as a TV news cameraman taught him to "shoot first and think about it later." Now that he has said goodbye to all that, he has had time to think -- and to write a memoir of his time behind the camera at the CBS television affiliate in San Francisco, KPIX-TV: Shoot First: Code of the News Cameraman
In his 29 years as a major-market news cameraman, Hank "Every Frame a Rembrandt" Schoepp weathered the predictable gamut of rape, riot and revolution served up to American viewers each day on the evening news. What is unpredictable about this interesting and detailed memoir is the insight that can come only from a man who stood behind the camera all those years. During his illustrious career in broadcast journalism, Hank got the shots that filled Bay Area TV screens for nearly three decades. His memories and impressions present a telling record of the time. There are a few instances when the book seems somewhat freighted with detail about the technologies used "back in the day," but readers who want to know "the way it was" will appreciate this. If nothing else, it provides an admirable record of the technical skills a good cameraman had to master in order to get a story on the air.
But the real pleasure of this book, especially for Bay Area residents who go back in time a little, is what Hank saw and felt while covering most of the major news events of the period. I was fortunate enough to work alongside him during some of that time (and I'm even mentioned briefly in these pages for an incident neither of us will ever forget).
For me, reading this memoir was a trip down memory lane with the man who made me and my stories look good day after day. There's a reason he was called "Every Frame a Rembrandt" Schoepp. He brought an artist's sensibility to assignments lesser men would merely "rip and run" through. He sometimes took risks carrying that camera that could have cost him his life, and the pictures were always beautiful. For other readers, this book will bring the anecdotal pleasure of eavesdropping on "old-timers" retelling war stories. Students of broadcast journalism will find this memoir a delightful companion to their other studies, an indispensable first-hand account of what it felt like to be an eyewitness whose skill, commitment and vision helped bring television to life.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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