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Searching Out Mayhem with Video 'Nightcrawlers'

They've been called the nightcrawlers of Los Angeles television -- freelance videographers who chase shootings, fires, accidents and homicides to sell later to local television news stations.

Those local stations have their own staff of cameramen and reporters, but they rarely work into the wee hours of the morning. That's where "stringers" come in -- motley crews with names like On Scene Video, Street Heat and Night Hawks.

The shooters, armed with cameras and police scanners, prowl the nocturnal Los Angeles metro area. Each siren wail or 911 call could be the sound of their next windfall -- a choice piece of videotape can earn the shooter up to $10,000 in a single night -- but it's also a dangerous way to make a living.

There's also the gore factor. The trade puts higher value on human tragedy -- the more chaos and mayhem, the bigger the paycheck. That earns the videographers names like "vultures," "nightcrawlers" and worse.

But the video crews say the anger is misdirected. They aren't causing the chaos, they're just documenting it.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Luke Burbank
Luke Burbank is kind of amazed that NPR is letting him co-host its new morning show, The Bryant Park Project, NPR's new morning news show launched on October 1, 2007.