I’m sitting here at my kitchen table wading through history and war stories….perusing a book from another era: Newsreel Man by Charles Peden.
An old buddy (Al Bulloch) once told me he was gonna write a book called “War Stories.” The story behind the news…things news cameramen do. Stuff no one knows about except those in the fraternity.
Sorry to tell you this Al, but Charles beat you to it and by a good fifty years.
Peden was possibly the first of the new breed of newsreel men – the audio man – with Movietone News. He came to the job by way of an engineering degree from Yale and his first job for RKO radio.
Now I’ve both frightened and entertained my students (and occassional non-news bosses) by telling them I’ve shot five Presidents. (and thought I was awfully witty to come up with that original joke)
Charles tells of an early newsreel man, who on being reassigned to Washington, D.C., sent a telegraph to his home office stating, “Expect to shoot President this afternoon. Alexander.”
The reply: “Ship Hoover immediately after shooting. Doherty.”
You can imagine the consternation in the telegraph office…and poor Alexander was detained by the Secret Service until he could explain his way out of the mess.
The book (Doubleday, Doran, & Company, Inc/1931, 1932) is out of print…I managed to find a used copy (used to belong to a Dorothy Slater Smith of Beaver, PA and then a Marilynn Carson) and am enjoying a rainy day read. It has the feel of age and truth and is a refreshing look at the beginnings of a craft that both supported and entranced me for nearly thirty years.
I had the good luck – right after the book arrived – to be put in touch with Peden’s daughter, Marcia Miner, by Amanda Emily and spent an hour on the phone with her yesterday. She is one of a kind – and has the same sense of adventure and love of travel her father writes about in his book. And better yet, she had the luck to travel with him on some of his assignments!!!
Her memories are compelling…
Once I get the notes organized and spend some more time with her I’ll post something on the blog. So stay tuned…between her, her father’s book, some other contacts I’m working on, and more interviews I’ll get that durned chapter on history and ethics done yet. Yeah. That’s the big hangup. Finding the time to do the original research. Writing the process, the gear sections of The Basics of Videojournalism was a snap. Trying to find old-timers and get together with them is harder – those old guys never stay still. Ya’d think at their age they’d be in wheelchairs…or maybe those wheelchairs are all rocket-propelled….
Hmmmm….wonder what my kids will have to say about me when I’m gone?