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War Plans

Plus, Crump produces another winner

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"Embedded" is odd Pentagon-speak for the old school combat reporting that will take place if the US goes to war in Iraq. Journalists have been through a military-led "boot camp," slogging through fields with soldiers and learning the fun of slapping on a gas mask and a bio-chem suit, all in the name of war coverage.Unlike the tightly choreographed and restrictive Gulf War rules governing American journalists, the Defense Department is opening up the barn door and will let that pony run. Access is open: bring your own helmet, boys and girls, and don't give out names of the dead until next of kin are notified, please.

Locally, it's a different story. Even as the government backpedals from its goofy "duct tape and sheeting" scare, you can expect to see local reporters and photographers traveling with reserve units and North Carolina-based military, perhaps, but don't expect to see them on the front lines. WBTV's Steve Ohnesorge just returned from Kuwait after going over with a local Marine reserve unit.

All Charlotte TV news operations will no doubt rely on their network and network affiliate services and alliances to get them more "custom" coverage from the front, if there is one. NBC Newschannel provides those services to NBC affiliates from Charlotte. Jeanee Von Essen, its director of foreign news and business development, says that while local stations may go with their own resources, "we're already doing daily pieces (from Qatar and Kuwait) with our personnel." Three full reporter-camera teams are already at work.

"Our plan is to cover the home front," explains NBC6 news director Keith Connors. "We're not here to replicate what the network is doing, and we would not put our journalists in the middle of it. We're not war correspondents."

WBTV news director Dennis Milligan says, "We do local news, and we want to look at the combination of things that will affect us here, including the threat of terrorism. North Carolina has a lot invested in this, with Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. We will be thorough with local angles."

Budgets will also take a hit. No boo-hoo for broadcasters here, but when your network is going "wall-to-wall" with coverage and your commercials are dropped, cash isn't coming in. But you just have to, pardon, bite the bullet.

WSOC-TV news director Robin Whitmeyer says, "We are always aware there will be costs that will occur with coverage of any big event (mostly from overtime), but we recognize it's our responsibility as a news organization to report on any event that has a big impact and use the resources that are needed. Such has been the case with all the weather events we've covered in the past three months."

Here's hoping the best-laid plans for covering war and domestic terrorism will go in the round file. I just don't think they will.

When someone asked a couple years ago if I knew who Romare Bearden was, I only knew that he was an artist who did collages. What I didn't know was that his roots were in Charlotte, and that a simpler time in Mecklenburg County was often an inspiration and theme throughout his body of work.Such is what you'll learn about the multi-talented native son from Steve Crump's latest documentary, Romare Bearden: Charlotte Collaborations on WTVI this month. Crump is the WBTV news reporter who merely cranks out award-winning documentaries about facets of black history in his spare time.

Crump traces Bearden's life and career from his birth and early childhood in Third Ward to his emergence as a social activist and accomplished painter and collagist. A major exhibition of his work is slated for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

In the documentary, we hear from family, friends, artists, art historians and critics about the man and his colorful work. After leaving Charlotte at age 11, he and his family settled in Harlem during its famed Renaissance that embraced African-American art and music. He met the likes of Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes in his parents' home, and was encouraged to create.

From his "day job" as a social worker to a stint as a political cartoonist, his art didn't "come together," as one friend put it, until the 1960s, when he began to pursue collage as his signature. Harlem life was a common theme in his chunky, rhythmic pieces, but traces and images of Charlotte had a life of their own as well. For instance, "Carolina Shout" depicts a Southern-style baptism; "At Dawn" brings a vision of home.

Crump fast-forwards to 1978, when Davidson College presented Bearden with an honorary degree. Long under-appreciated in his hometown, last year's Mint Museum exhibit began to rectify that wrong, and this documentary will take Bearden's story much further.

My hope is that Romare Bearden: Charlotte Collaborations will get a wider audience than just WTVI's coverage area. (UNC-TV, are you listening?) As Bearden himself says at the end of the program, "an artist is an enchanter of time," and his time as an artist is something we should all take pride in.

Stay tuned...

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