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Monday, 16 May 2011

Don't put your Shepherd on the stage Mrs Worthington...



Pict: Renton, Mary and Camerman Chas
For the last few years I’ve struggled with how I should portray myself on TV.  Clearly I’m blind and it is hard to hide that fact and nor do I want to, but...do I continue to appear in my Reports to camera with Renton? 

When I had Moss I tried different approaches. Sometimes I would put him on film when I worked on a piece to Camera. On other occasions the dog would not be in view and it would just be me doing the interviewing.  As Moss moved towards retirement, I stopped putting him in at all, as I believed it distracted from the story. 
Now that I’ve got Renton, I’ve started including him in each of my films. In fact, he is in them quite a bit. And people always comment on the programmes...not for the content..but for RENTON! I’m concerned that people are more interested in looking at Renton staring at seagulls when I’m talking to the camera, than focusing on what the issue is I’m reporting on. 
Pict;graphic Ying and Yang

Is he distraction or attraction?
Renton is a very important part of my life, but he isn’t what defines me as me. Fundamentally he is a form of mobility. He’s not an extension of my personality. Nor is he some kind of co-presenter.
But..he is so handsome and full of life and maybe I should just accept that I have an unusual selling point, compared to all the other middle aged BBC Reporters(did I really say that?). Like it or not, viewers remember me because I have  Renton. is that important? 

So, the question is, do I put Renton infront of the camera?

I don’t have an answer. I’m not wanting to hear from you dog lovers saying, “of course you do, because he’s lovely.” that might be true, but what I’m asking is fairly fundamental in how disabled people are portrayed on Television. 
It’s vital that disabled reporters are seen as any other journalist not just some guy on the TV with a big dog. Is Renton in or Out?
I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.   

4 comments:

  1. I think the question here is not how disabled people are represented on television, it's simpler than that: Does Renton distract from the content?

    He's part of your working toolkit, like a microphone or a notebook for a court reporter's ptc, and occasionally showing the viewer these things underlines honesty. The catch is, he's big and fluffy and cute. If people are being distracted from the story, then Renton has to leave the frame. Filming him is simply a style choice, like filming arty cutaways of camera monitors.

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  2. Maybe not out entirely because, while he doesn't define who you are I think he is a part of you. Just like when I have a puppy I'm raising for GDB the puppy is a part of me. But, the story is the important part and I'm assuming you'd rather your audience go away thinking about the contect of the story instead of how handsome Renton is. I think maybe do two pieces without Renton and then one with Renton then another two without and then one with and so on. That way you still have your selling point ;) but you also get people to listen for the story.

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  3. Hello Ian, your original problem was being born a fellow. If Renton you had been a bitch and grown to be a what is known as 'eye candy' you'd have really been in trouble.
    Think positive! You could be making a fortune pimping the dog around world or the entire island of Millport.

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  4. That's an interesting question. Of course its totally up to you and whatever you feel comfortable with.
    I'm sure if people see him regularly enough in your reports, they won't pay any attention after a while. Its nice for people to see him there, part of your job and your everyday life, especially when he isn't being the centre of attention and your not actually talking about him.
    It can be hard to take people's attention off the dog though. I deliver disability awareness training to school children and I have this problem too, since they are often more interested in my dog O.J than in what I am talking about. I want my classes to be about many types of disabilities, but the kids often focus more on blindness and guide dogs, which is completely understandable.

    I've just realised I probably didn't give you any good advice at all!
    Interesting post though :)

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