Shooting for Perfection; Fox 5 Cameraman Has Eyes Peeled for the Best Footage

Article excerpt

Byline: Kara Rowland, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Doug Wilkes jumps into the open passenger window of an SUV and aims his 50-pound camera backward along Rock Creek Parkway.

The veteran WTTG-TV cameraman is recording the perennial traffic jam on the scenic Northwest road for a story with reporter Beth Parker. He is hanging out the window of the Fox 5 vehicle, looking for the perfect shot.

After interviewing frustrated motorists in their cars, the team spots two women on their lunch break walking along the trail. Mr. Wilkes sprints ahead to catch the pair moving against the gridlock in the background.

"That'll be the set-up shot. That's the shot I was waiting for," he says.

Mr. Wilkes, 50, has worked at the D.C. Fox affiliate since 1983 and has been in the TV news business even longer. The D.C. resident is a household name among the city's TV crews. He has racked up 12 Emmys, been named White House Television Photographer of the year four times and, most recently, won a Silver Circle award from the local chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honoring his 25 years in the business.

"On day one, I knew this was my calling," Mr. Wilkes says. "Not knowing what your day was going to be, then the mad rush to get it on the air... and then the show's over and you got it all on It was very satisfying. And then it starts all over the next day."

Mr. Wilkes got started in the news business by chance. As a student at Allegheny College, he was told he was taking too few credits to dive for the swim team. Rather than sign up for another course, he applied for an internship at the CBS affiliate in Erie, Pa., which counted as class credit.

After he graduated, he took a job as a radio disc jockey, but he kept in touch with Channel 35 in Erie, eventually making his way back as a reporter. After about a year and a half, Mr. Wilkes realized he was a better cameraman than a reporter, and took a job in Buffalo, N.Y., as a shooter/editor. One year later, he arrived at WTTG.

"You're documenting things that are important to people's lives," he says. "What could be better than this?"

On a typical day, Mr. Wilkes is in the office well before his 9 a.m. weekday shift begins, preparing his gear. He checks a white board in the newsroom to see what his assignment is and with which reporter he'll be working.

Typically, Mr. Wilkes says, a news story might revolve around some kind of planned event, and the reporter decides what other shots or interviews - be it "stand-ups" with a source or "man on the street" - are needed to supplement the story. …