The Man Behind the Camera: Goodbye Old Friend


by By ANDY BENTON / Carolina Traveler E-mail Us:

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 1 at 6:03 PM

If you read , then you've heard the news. The end of the road is here for both Mike and the Carolina Traveler at NewsChannel 36. This is a tough one for me as both Mike's friend and coworker.

As Mike wrote in his journal, he understands. It wasn't an easy decision for the bosses. It's like the now famous political election saying "It's the economy stupid!" Local television is surely not immune from this dreadful economy. Unfortunately, Mike is now a casualty of it.

One of Mike's greatest traits that I have learned over these years is his positive outlook on life, especially when things look their darkest. He doesn't profess to have all the answers, but he believes things will work out for the better. Add to that his incredible work ethic and yes they will.

Is he Superman? No, not even Batman. I'd venture to guess there have been some nights of little sleep and self doubt since he got the news. But once a new morning begins, his positive outlook guides his path through the day. He believes in himself and knows better times are ahead.

This just isn't a clich either. Mike lives his life looking for the best not only in himself, but in all those around him. When a person is down and others are piling on, Mike is the one there lending a helping hand to get someone back on their feet. So if you see, talk or write to Mike, we owe it to him to share his positive outlook and good vibes.

As far as the Carolina Traveler, this chapter closes the book. It has been one incredible journey. We have literally traveled to every corner of the Tar Heel and Palmetto states. Hundreds of people and places later, it's time to say goodbye.

For us it just wasn't a show, it was a labor of love. We did have some good help along the way, but for the most part it really was a two-man effort. Basically everything you've seen for almost eight years has come out of the minds and hard work of us two knuckleheads.

I have grown so much both personally and professionally in this time. It is no coincidence that I owe so much of this to Mike. Over eight years Mike has put his heart and soul into the Carolina Traveler to make it the best he could. Many long hours, early mornings and late nights went into putting together our finest work.

But Mike isn't one to let on just how much time he put in on shoots, looking at hours of tape or rewriting scripts over and over until it felt just right.

We had different duties with Traveler, but if our little two-man show was going to work, it was because of a team effort. Mike helped me expand my bag of tricks of not only photography and editing, but added co-producing, story research and even becoming a better writer to my resume.

For the most part, "the camera guy" in my business is basically thought of as a technical guy. Push the buttons, do what you're told and you're not asked opinions on the editorial side of stories very often. From day one on Carolina Traveler, Mike Redding saw me as one thing and one thing only, an equal.

Usually when television crews go out, the "camera guy" is just in the background. Some people I have worked with over the years haven't even bothered to introduce me. Not out of a sense of meanness mind you, it's just how they were taught and the "camera guy" ranks low on the pecking order. This was never Mike's approach.

For almost eight years, every story we went out on started the same. "Hi, I'm Mike Redding and this is the man behind the camera Andy Benton." It didn't stop there. Every time we received positive e-mails, phone calls, pats on the back from the bosses, won awards from our peers and even down to his last journal entry for the station, Mike was the first to give me the credit before taking any of his own.

He constantly let my bosses know what I brought to the process beyond just shooting pictures. I know this because I would overhear conversations in the newsroom or on the car phone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I honestly don't know how many times he went to bat for me with the higher ups when I wasn't there, but something inside tells me a whole lot.

The reason you folks liked the Carolina Traveler can be summed up in two simple words: Mike Redding. It could be that you liked the stories, the places we traveled, Mike's sense of humor or something else I'm missing. But it was always tied together by Mike. If I may, I'll share a secret to why it worked.

While there's a part of him that likes being that "TV Guy," if you asked Mike to list all the duties of his job, the very first thing will always be a writer. Mike Redding is a writer. When you smiled, laughed, got a little chocked up, took a moment to let the pictures sink in or whatever, that was all the writing of Mike Redding. Every spoken word, sound from an interview or silent pause for effect was written.

I've been in the television news business eighteen years. I've worked with some extremely talented journalists. With no offense to them, none are in Mike's league as a writer. It may look easy it but please don't think it is. Mike's talent is not by accident.

I wish I knew how many times over the years I received e-mails of story scripts from Mike that had very odd times of day on the "send" line. 1:30am, 3:00am, 4:30am were always more common than 11:00am. Mike only knows how to approach a story one way, by giving it his all.

So, often he would go to bed when an idea for one of our stories would hit him in the middle of the night. Instead of rolling over back to sleep and getting to it later, on went the power to the computer and back to work Mike went.

Mike is a writer and writers write.

But this week, Mike Redding will be writing a Carolina Traveler story for the final time. Eight years, 30+ Emmy awards, 2 National and 10+ regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, 3 National Gabriel Awards, a slew of Associated Press Awards and hundreds of speaking engagements/charity functions later (getting to meet so many of you folks out there) the curtain is closing on Carolina Traveler at WCNC.

There will be no more trips to the Outer Banks, Charleston or the Blue Ridge Parkway. But memories of the Gourd Lady, Chainsaw Ted, the kids of Camp CARE battling cancer and Martha Mason, the lady who lived in an Iron Lung for over 60 years before passing away just this month to name a few, will never fade away.

I'll take away memories of lighthouses, tea plantations, cookie factories, hollering contests and a young teen model named Brooklyn Decker who we met when she was 16 and now is a world famous swimsuit model.

A lifetime of professional and personal memories in only 8 plus years is over.

I hope we gave our faithful viewers something not only to enjoy, but an opportunity to take pride in this beautiful part of the world called the Carolinas. I think we provided a rare glimpse into the beauty of not only our land, but our people. You embraced them and we embraced you back by telling our stories in an honest way.

Sometimes we wanted to inspire you. Sometimes we wanted to amaze you. Sometimes we wanted you to see the beauty of our world. Sometimes we wanted you to see the beauty of our people. But it was always an honest effort and we hope it came across that way.

I now move on to new duties at my station and take with me fears of what my job now holds without my trusted partner. I have no doubts Mike will land on his feet stronger than ever. He's too talented, a talent that comes from years of hard work.

I couldn't sleep tonight. I lay in bed thinking of how to say goodbye to the Carolina Traveler. One of my goals for the future is to be a better writer. What is one of the things Mike taught me about writing? Good writers write. So at 4:00am and with a 21-month old daughter who will be up soon, I'll try to wrap this up with a few final thoughts.

One last secret about Mike Redding is he's not good at taking compliments. He always gets uncomfortable and passes the praise on to someone else. For eight years that someone else has been me. Well, not this time.

So thank you Mike. Thank you for the teamwork, the passion for our product, the camaraderie, the pep talks, the sharing of your life's stories and for just being a friend.

Will I see Mike again? Of course, let's not get too dramatic. But in the Carolina Traveler sense, this is goodbye.

I'm not an overly spiritual man, but my beliefs are strong. So if you have it in you, say a prayer for the Redding Family in this uncertain time. I know Mike would for you.

Really true friends for me are hard to come by. I measure a true friend as one who at the end of the day after all the good times, sad times or even trying times is one that makes you a better person.

I am a better person for knowing Mike Redding and I thank him for that.

Andy Benton Carolina Traveler Sidekick

P.S. You can keep in touch with Mike at .Mike says he's gotten a bunch of queries about my fate as well and he promises he'l l answer those and other questions at his blog site.