by John Farmer
“And the crowd goes wild!” Well, maybe it's not so much a crowd, but a small team of individuals who take a certain strange pride in the little things that make a local news program work. All those little graphics, wipes, dissolves, fades and camera shots are executed in harmony at the hands of operating engineers, the director calling the shots and the moody machines that make it happen. There's a certain sarcastic edge to the exuberance we feel when things work out just right. It's all about buttons, faders and computers and as with most technology, we sometimes feel the need to humanize it, especially when it's not working the way we want it to.
When was the last time you screamed at your mobile phone or laptop, knowing full well that it doesn't understand you? Or declared it your best friend, after it crashed with a blue screen of death or an unending beach-ball, when for the grace of some kind of mythical technology beast it managed to save the spreadsheet you spent hours on. We scold our machines like they're a new puppy who urinated on our favorite shoes. Make no mistake, at the heart of every news program, there is a bevvy of noisy, temperamental machines that sputter and whir in and out of harmony.
Things get rowdy and exciting on a Friday night in the control room, sure, who's really watching the news on a Friday night? Well, for one, the people behind-the-scenes are watching. Pushing buttons can get a little boring and monotonous for an engineer, so they have to breathe life into it on their own accord. Getting “crazy with a flare wipe” (the quick flash of light between video segments) on a Friday night can bring on a slow clap and even an uproar of oddly placed praise. Throw in a “weather word” (a special word given to a meteorologist to somehow work into his dialogue) and again the energy level can peak to unforeseen levels. It's all well and good, and we all take our jobs seriously but there's a certain level of well-placed humor that can lift morale. The ability to change your mind about technology with humor in almost an instant, even for television engineers, is something you learn over time.
What it really comes down to is, technology can destroy your day, but it can also give you that extra bit of push needed to feel creative, a feeling of profound oneness with the world. It can give you light in a dark place in your life. It gives you the freedom to scream out your beliefs to the world, unedited, unassuming. It connects you to friends when you're in the valley of loneliness. It can make you smile in the control room on a Friday night. It's no wonder we humanize technology, because, sometimes, it makes us feel more human