PHOENIX -- Radio reporters hate the wind.
I hate the wind because it feels like every time it blows through my microphone, the source talking on the other end is saying something perfect; something poetic; something never to be said so succinctly again.
And it seems like every time I go out lately the wind is blowing. This spring I drove to Show Low, Ariz., to report on Mitt Romney’s influence in Arizona’s Mormon country. The wind was gusting so hard that it red-lined my recording levels the moment I stepped outside. I had to point my shotgun mic out a crack in the car window toward a flag pole flapping furiously in the wind. If the police had showed up asking what I was doing, I’d have had a hard time explaining.
The further I travel, the more vivid my wind nightmares become. In May, I traveled to Brownsville, Texas, to report on the Mexican elections and their impact in the U.S.
The first place we stopped … yes … windstorm. As I stood on the end of an unfinished bridge soaring toward Mexico over the Rio Grande, the wind rendered my recorder so useless it was no use trying.
[You can even listen to what I mean -- a rare treat to hear a reporter’s unused tape! Click on the audio link at the top.]
But we tried anyway. I ducked behind a steel piling and wedged my interviewee into the corner, hoping to shield him from the gale. It didn’t work. We gave up and did the interview inside a truck, with the windows rolled up tight and the AC turned off. Miserable, hot, sweaty interview.
We radio people do have some tricks.
• Put a sock on it. Preferably clean. It works if it’s not too windy. I used to carry one in my radio kit until I decided I should be a bit more professional and upgrade to a proper wind screen.
• Frankly, the wind screen I have is about as effective as a gym sock and it won’t hold up in a real storm either.
• The wind becomes character. If you hear a story that mentions a “windy day,” it’s almost always because the wind blew through the recording and the reporter has to explain somehow why the audio quality sounds so crummy.
So in the end, we’re left with improvising. We hide behind bridges, turn our backs to Mother Nature, and unhappily retreat indoors when all else fails.