Memories of “Chic” Peden/Newsreel Man…

Newsreel Man by Charles Peden

I’ve been busy the past month attempting to get more memories down from old-timers for the history chapter of The Basics of Videojournalism. I’ll post something on the interview with KGO cameraman Fred Pardini later this week…today I want to tell you about a daughter’s memories of her father.

Last month I interviewed Marcia Miner, daughter of an honest-to-gosh newsreel man.

Charles Peden wrote the book – the ONLY book – on newsreel cameramen, pictured above and published in 1932. Right now it seems to be THE definitive book on that vanished career.

Peden’s daughter, Marcia Miner, spoke with me about her memories of her father…and her memories foreshadowed what my daughters must have lived through as they grew up in a house with a TV news shooter.

Miner apparently inherited her dad’s wanderlust…his job took him all over the world. She was born in England because he and her pregnant mother journeyed there so he could teach the new sound on film technology to British newsreel men.

Marcia said her father loved his job…he would come home and talking about the stories he covered.
He graduated from Yale with a degree in Engineering…and got a job with RKO/with radio stations she thinks…it would have been as an audio man.

Peden’s first job on a newsreel crew was with Movietone News. Back in those days the audio technology was so new and so complex that if the company wanted sound, they had to send along an audio man. The gear was heavy…three, four, five boxes and it had to be loaded up on top of the car and there were three on the crew…cameraman, light man, sound man and the contact man (we talked a bit about what a contact man was and decided they are now called a producer).

Like my daughters, Miner accompanied her father on the occasional story – Mafia trials, sports stories, horse races…and her biggest moment.

She recalls how one summer while she was still in college in Washington DC her father called her (he was a White House correspondent at the time) and said, “Get yourself over to the White House. Truman is going to make a statement.”
She said that she walked up to the guardhouse and the guard told her to walk right into the White House, saying her father had left a note that she was coming. She walked right up into the White House…not one was around and then her father found her. They wandered into Truman’s office…there were still men and movie men.
Truman came in and the still men started flashing/then left. (Camermen can’t take pictures due to the sound from the still cameras)
“This was when he fired McCarther…”
As Trueman left, she recalls, “He put his hand on my head and said, “Is this your father?” I said yes and he said, “How nice.”

Her father’s career entranced her – and she would have liked to be a cameraman but the union rules said only sons could be cameramen in those days.

Marcia Miner, daughter of Charles Peden

These interviews will continue and I’ll incorporate them into the textbook chapters on history and ethics.

(Slug changed due to request by Marcia…her father’s nickname is “Chic.”)

4 thoughts on “Memories of “Chic” Peden/Newsreel Man…

  1. great research in getting this interview. I recently found this book and thought how interesting it would have been to be a 1st generation newsreel person. the first to shoot Presidents, the first to get a big scene on news film. Then iI thought what it must have felt like to be usurped by the small camera TV newsfilm people and wait. now we are being threatened by VJ’s with tiny cameras and faster turnaround times. all of this within 50 years. I believe this book has been republished or if not some libraries have it. Its worth the reading and I’m glad for the update on his family. thanks

  2. More luck than great research I’m afraid. But thanks.
    I’m currently writing a book on videojournalism and interviewed Peden’s daughter and plan to interview other old-timers for a chapter on history of broadcast cameramen.
    It is a compelling subject and may turn into more than a chapter eventually.
    Are you an old-timer (sounds like it).

  3. I’ve been tracking the career of an interesting newsreel cameraman and producer, Claude R. Collins. He sometines gave lectures in the 1930s on his experiences as a “daredevil photographer.” There are newspaper accounts that mention he had a contract to write a book, but I have not found any evidence that it was ever published. He died in 1959 and left no children; I can not find any relatives–so I assume the manuscript, if he ever finished it, is lost.

    A British newsreel cameraman named John Turner wrote an account of his career, but so far Peden is the only American account to surface. It’s a shame there are not other titles–at one point this was viewed as a most romantic and adventurous careeer.

  4. Just came across the photo of me in Florida looking through the Mitchell camera while googling images of newsreel cameramen. Thanks to Cyndy Green my dad is getting his due recognition and so are the many cameramen and soundmen, from the newsreel days.

    Marcia Miner

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