I thought one of the perks of not going into broadcast would be the anonymity of a byline. I would observe a scene, then furiously scribble in my reporters notebook. My introverted self would have been content with such a scenario. But the reality of journalism isn’t the life of a wallflower. Capturing the world never happens by standing in one place.
In fact, to capture the world, journalists must embrace “creeping,” and not just of the online variety. Looking past the connotations of the word “creep,” a quick Google search tells us the verb “creep” means “to move slowly and carefully, especially in order to avoid being heard or noticed.”
I want to creep. If I’m not noticed, then I don’t interfere with the story that’s happening before me. But there are a few barriers to this mission.
1. With any equipment, even a notebook and pen, journalists will be noticed. Even more so when that piece of equipment looks like Dumbo’s ears are magically attached. Or when walking with a microphone in hand, stopping, then stooping, squatting or lying down to get that piece of nat sound.
2. We’re going to be noticed, a good part of the time.
3. Number 2 makes me uncomfortable.
I’ve done one audio story in my life. I’ve hidden behind print for all of my very short journalistic career. Writing down observations of a scene is a more subtle task than collecting audio. Both require a high degree of creeping. You can’t get good audio, or a good story for that matter, if you burn through it. Granted, the pressure of the deadline always exists. But if I am to be a good journalist, I need to creep. I need to move slowly and carefully, wait for a few extra moments for that right bit of audio to come through: the creak of a door, steps down the stairs, giggles rising from the playground, whistling down the street.
“Audio is the theater of the mind,” Judd said. Audiences listen to a story, and they can picture a whole scene, without having seen anything. (Maybe this is some strange form of synesthesia?)
I want the purest, most natural audio for any story I create. Finding those elements is a challenge in and of itself. Weaving them together to tell the full story is the next level. But I think if I take the lessons learned from recording–and looking somewhat tool-ish–move slowly, close my eyes and listen carefully, then I might just be ready to take in the story unfolding for itself.