Part of my job as a television broadcast reporter is getting in front of the camera and doing what’s called a “standup.” Literally, it means I stand up in front of the camera and record myself talking. The goal is to ‘show and tell’ in a way that is most effectively done by the reporter, or narrator if you will. It’s one of the hardest parts of my job because I’m a video correspondent responsible for being behind the camera and in front of the lens without any help.
Usually, I find someone near me to stand in so I can focus my camera. Then I press record, stand in about the same spot, and hope for the best. But in India, doing these standups was much more difficult. Especially in a place called Bhiwandi.
It was my second day of reporting with the International Reporting Project*. I was told that our group was only the second set of visitors the community had seen in four years. We looked different than everyone around us. We had cameras, although we tried to shield much of our equipment from until we could accomplish our goal of visiting Operation ASHA and talking with the organization about tracking patients from migrant families.
I was getting great information, but knew I needed to also shoot a standup. The longer we were there, the larger and louder the crowd grew. Our group leaders noticed the crowd was becoming mob. We had to leave.
We ducked out the back door and walked through the narrow pathways. Soon the crowd was all around us. People were tugging on my arms and shoulders. Young men were demanding I stop and take pictures with them. But there were just too many people. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stop. The crowd was too excited and there seemed to be no boundaries.
When we got to our bus, I noticed the crowd hadn’t quite caught up. I decided to take a chance and try to shoot a standup behind the bus. I took my camera and ran around. But I couldn’t get it leveled and focused soon enough. Young boys surrounded me first. Then teenagers. Then young men. Then men with facial hair. Every time I tried to speak, I was pushed. It wasn’t malicious. It was just a big crowd and everyone wanted to see what I was doing.
Every time I tried to speak, the crowd got loud. I put my finger over my lips, trying to use what I hoped was the universal sign for “Shhhh.” It didn’t work. Then I noticed my camera started getting knocked. It just slightly, but I couldn’t risk having the camera fall because it would jeopardize my ability to report during the rest of the trip. I ended up regretting taking the chance at all, because my attempt for a standup was unsuccessful.
A member from our group took a picture of me from the bus window. Looking at this picture, I clearly noticed the groups of boys and men. The young boys were in a circle around me. Teens behind them. Then young adults. Then men. Circle after circle. It was so obvious.
The entire standup attempt took me 2 minutes and 9 seconds. I never got a full sentence out because I’d get pushed, or the crowd would yell too loud, or the camera would get bumped. And because of my camera, I wasn’t even sure whether I was in frame.
What did I learn? An important lesson on recognizing when to pack up and call it a day.
*The International Reporting Project (IRP), a non-profit journalism organization, is based at the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Major funding for the New Media Trip to India comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This independent fellowship program maintains editorial independence and the final content is at the sole discretion of IRP.