Rachel Maddow hugging Bernie after a recent Hillary/Bernie ‘debate’ on MSNBC.
Over the past seven years I have recorded on my video cam a variety of DFL functions, conventions, rallies, town meetings and Senate District central committee meetings. I have edited the raw video for segments on Democratic Visions, the public access TV program that I produce with the help of other, unpaid volunteers.
A few elected and rank and file partisans have mistakenly thought that I was a “tracker.” I and my production colleagues are not trackers. Trackers are those pale, silent and creepy gents who quietly place a tripod with a tiny, mounted camera at the back of a town meeting. They are hoping to record gaffes and clumsy sound bites that can be used against the progressives and liberals of this world. Lefty organizations also employ trackers, but I am not one of them nor do I know anyone who is but I know a cockroach from a real video journalist. One of Democratic Visions’ missions has been to capture and to share on cable access TV and its YouTube channel the joy, humor, thoughtfulness, diversity and humanity of being a lefty. One cannot do that from a stationary tripod or from the voyeuristic employ of a cell phone with a peephole lens.
When I am at, say, a DFL convention, I am waltzing about with a serviceable Sony Handicam for different angles of the speakers, panelists, audience members, coffee sippers, applauders and getting shots at the sign-in, candidate and refreshment tables. I look for moments that can be used to show our essences in our various degrees of genius, wit, gravity and serendipity. The tracker, on the other hand, with the tiny camera on the tripod or, for that matter, the hired professional/institutional ‘media’ crew with their own tripods and tiny cameras at the back of the room, cannot make anyone look good. In that respect, they have something in common with the non-partisan, gray ladies who run the League of Women Voters candidate forums.
I grimace when, say, some city council or legislature candidate begins her/his introductory remarks with an unctuously oily ‘I want to thank the League of Women Voters for inviting me to share with you tonight why I am seeking election and how I plan to give back to a community that my family and I love so very, very dearly.’ Well, ‘Thanks’ for what? The televised and streaming versions of the stilted and pinched LWV forums are of interest only to a candidate’s campaign manager and spouse, the weekly community newspaper editor and the occasional tracker (if permitted by the gray ladies to set up a tiny camera on a tripod). These, well intended League attempts to spark voter interest are as reliably dull as a Ford Focus coated in February road salt. It is my view that the LWV is sucking the juice out of Minnesota’s brand of democracy.
That’s why I risk losing what little dignity I still retain as a veteran television producer and journalist by prancing about meetings, kneeling, standing on benches, laying flat on the floor, sneaking up behind the head table or poking my camera into a trio of gabbers. I am attempting to gather video and sound that local politics, in spite of the muzzle of Minnesota Nice, the leash of the politically correct, and the flare of the Black Lives Matter movements of our times, do indeed have a pulse and an ethic richer than the stump speech or the calculated chit chat on Almanac or the bombastic teasers on FOX and CNN.