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Video, Photo ‘Stand-Ups’ And Masks Cover The News

I can’t tell who those people are on TV or in the newspapers.

Why not? D’oh! They are all wearing masks!

These days, aren’t we all?

Yes and no. We are supposed to wear masks “in public.” That generally means any buildings where “masks required” signs are posted. Masks are also suggested whenever we are closer to each other than “social distancing,” about six feet away from each other.

Amazingly, that is almost the same distance that the Benedictine nuns of sacred memory thought we boys should maintain while dancing with our girl classmates at the St. Joseph School eighth grade graduation dance in Warren in 1956!

The nuns, bless their hearts, had the correct theory but were overly cautious about putting it into practice.

But they taught us well. Their lessons included concern for others and common courtesy. My parents reinforced those lessons.

So I wear my mask these days when I go into stores or other public places. I do so almost … wait for it … religiously! (Pause to recover from slapping knee. Sorry, Benedictine Sisters!)

If I forget and then belatedly see others wearing their masks, I do a fair imitation of a guy with a mouse crawling down his spine. I contort myself to sneakily retrieve the cloth mask from my right rear pocket, and then fake nonchalance as I slip it on. Oh! Was I THAT obvious?

So, yes, wear the masks — within reasonable limits. I would pull my mask down around my neck if I were a TV reporter doing a “stand-up” from a location outside the studio. David Roush, a DuBois guy who made good as a “Noo Yawk Citee” TV news anchor and schoolteacher, made a cogent observation to that effect on Facebook last week.

David, who got his journalistic start writing for this newspaper while still in public school, tells us that nobody is within six feet of the reporter who is speaking in that “stand up.” The camera has to be further away than six feet to get the desired effect, close enough to focus on the reporter but far away enough to give a background slice of the fire, vehicle crash, courthouse, hurricane, festival … whatever event is the topic of the reporter’s talk.

Though TV is a visual medium, the spoken words are the core of the report.

For geezers like me who can’t hear very well, watching a masked reporter in a “stand-up” is an exercise in frustration. Some of what I “hear” actually gets understood because I read the speaker’s lips. A mask-wearing reporter might as well be speaking Swahili. Swahili is understandable to some residents of Africa; not so much in west-central Pennsylvania.

I understand the do-gooder reason. Masked reporters supposedly encourage the rest of us to wear our masks when in “close contact” within six feet unless the other people are singing, gasping or breathing in stronger than normal conversational strength.

My suggestion for TV reporters is to start while wearing a mask but, before speaking, pull the mask to below chin level. Then, after the words are done, let the mask come up over the Howdy Doody smile before the camera stops running.

In newspaper “action” photos showing a crowd at a parade or an audience at a sporting event, masks are appropriate, even necessary.

But in “stand-up” photos, including the static photographs we used to call “grip and grin,” wearing masks seems to defeat the purpose of the photo, which is to clearly show the two, four or six people pictured. Way back in the 1960s, newspaper people took most of those photos. Today, with smartphones, most of those photos are taken by people involved in the event, and then sent in. The “grip” has been replaced by no-handshake thumb-and-finger clip-ons at the corners of the check or certificate being passed. That makes sense. COVID, flu and other nasty bugs can be spread by touching.

However, if the people in the photo are from the same household, mask wearing seems supercilious. With forethought, some small-group photographs can be set up in don’t-breathe-on-me positions. Viewers hope to see our friends and neighbors, not the Lone Ranger or a bank robber.

Some photos of people wearing masks are unavoidable, even desirable. But President Trump, a keen showman with a masterful understanding of video communications, is on solid ground while speaking maskless to a rally crowd from a stage, 50-100 feet.

Saving lives comes first. Even if you pooh-pooh the lethality of COVID, few among us actually like the thought of getting sick, so common courtesy also should be prominent.

But so should a bit of common sense.

If saving lives or spreading COVID is not at great risk – let us see you. We identify each other best by seeing faces, not “Let’s play ‘Hospital’ “ get-ups.

¯¯¯

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.

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