Oh, the Lessons That I Have Learned!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:53PM
Joe Perry in LA Times, Longest Train, Mark Boster, Media, Monster Train, Ramblings and Such, Rich Connell, Union Pacific

Unreal, heck even surreal at times.

The last week has been one heck of a ride.  I thought I went out, as I have done countless times in the past, to enjoy a chase and beautiful scenery with Deb but it became so much more.  So what, it was a very long train, one the likes of I have never seen in thirty plus years of paying attention.  Turns out it was a monster.  But it was a monster in more than just size.  It’s very existence changed me and my world in unimaginable ways.  And yes, you are partly responsible for it too.  Let me explain.

The “chase” itself was typical.  The results, of course, weren’t.  I had not posted any of my videos from previous trips onto the web for others to consume.  This train was different and I know that there were people, fans and the general public alike, that would have liked to have been able to see it go by.  (I think we all enjoy watching a train pass - more on than later.)  So I intended, at the onset, to make sure to get a stationary video of the train passing.  If you have read my previous posts then you know that I took that opportunity at Fingal, CA.  I thought the video came out nice, despite the fact that I shot it in portrait mode instead of landscape, so I created an account on YouTube and posted the video so that fans and you might get to see the historic train.

It turns out that somehow the media got wind of the train and it’s monster length and that’s when things got crazy.    I was first contacted by NBC News in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday evening, January 13, 2010.  They had seen the video on YouTube and wanted to run it on the 11PM news that night.  Wow, that’s cool, I thought.  Heck, who wouldn’t want their video shown on a major news network?  Well, it turns out that railfans don’t.  I didn’t know that at the time.  

No sooner had I finished my phone call with the producer from NBC then I received an email from a reporter with the Los Angeles Times.  (Do these guys work in the same office or have some secret Twitter arrangement?)  He had seen the video and said it was the cleanest he saw and wanted to discuss it with me and perhaps link to it on the Times website.  It was a crazy few minutes for sure.

At least the Times reporter took the time to talk to me about the experience and how I came to shoot the video.  Clearly he wanted more than just a graphic to showcase HIS story.  He was interested in MY story, however, I was caught up in the moment and didn’t realize what was about to happen.

NBC aired the video, as they said they wanted to do, however, their “story, ” in my opinion was not complete reporting.  They opted to stress the wait time one would experience at a grade crossing and the politicians “concerns” over the train instead of the whole reason Union Pacific ran the test train or the significance of it.  I was dismayed.  I learned at the point that while I gave consent to NBC to use my video it was still their “story.”  I wished I had been given an opportunity to provide input to the story.

I subsequently found out that the LA Times had also run an article on the train that very same day by the very same reporter.  I became concerned.  I read the article and felt that the Times reporter, which also mentioned the “political” concerns predominately, did at least give both sides to the story and apparently was willing to do more research, hence the email to me.

After the NBC news segment aired, the “noise” about the test train and my video elevated.  You see, at this point I was being associated, since it was my video, with the viewpoint of the mass media on the subject and worth of the train.  This was not my intent.  In fact, my views are almost diametric to those of the “politicians” and some of the general public on the subject.

Here’s my stance:

Based on the aforementioned points, it should be apparent why I had issues with the media propping up their stories with my footage.  In the railfan circles I learned of another individual who had his video used, in the exact same manner, by a competing station here in Los Angeles all without his consent!  

Now I began to worry about the end result of the LA Times inquiry about using my material and story in their next article about the “Monster Train.”  Historically, us railfans have been portrayed in the mainstream media as complete morons who never got over the model trains we had as kids.  I was determined to help shape this next article, if I could.

Fortunately, it turned out that the Times reporter, Rich Connell,  was a good reporter and did his investigation and followed where it led him.  Over the course of that week we had numerous emails and phone calls about the train and me.  Perhaps my nudging helped but I sense that it propably was not entirely necessary in this case.  

As a previous blog post indicates, I had no prior knowledge of Rich’s article “going to press.”  It appeared online first and then in the print edition the next day.  The only way I discovered it was the number of hits on my website went through the roof.  My heart skipped a beat.  (Which is not good due to a quadruple bypass and seven stents that adorn my life sustaining organ!)  The article was published.

I read the article.  Wow.  Very good.  Better than I thought it would be.  It was about me and my “adventure.”  Cool.  It did mention the “other” items but in a realistic and tempered way.  Outstanding!  What a relief.

I have to take my hat off to you Rich.  You wrote an insightful and good article.  And it is not just me saying so.  Read the comments on my Guestbook page or the posts on the main railroad board and you will see the “community” of railfans applaud the article.  You have done us proud.  Thank you Rich and thanks to Mark Boster for making me look half-way handsome!

So I learned this from it all:

Overall I am grateful for it all because not only did I learn a lot about myself and the way the media functions, I also got to meet so many people like you.  I received a lot emails and comments during the last few days and I am overwhelmed by the positive comments and response, in general, to my efforts to host chasingsteel.com.  I appreciate the fact that you have taken your time to visit and read my rants, such at this.  I am also humbled by the stories you all have shared with me and the great things you have said to inspire me.

OK, I realize there is one more thing I learned:

There are a lot of good and constructive folks in this world.  Heck, even some of them are not railfans!  Who knew? ;-)

Article originally appeared on railroad photography and blog by joe perry (http://www.chasingsteel.com/).
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