What does it mean to be part of the mobile workforce? For photojournalist Noel Montenegro, it’s about leveraging technology to do his best work on the go, every day. “Journalism has always been mobile,” Montenegro says. “Now that technology has caught up, it hasn’t just made it easier—it has made it faster!”
Based in Chicago, Montenegro works for NBC Universal shooting, editing, and producing video packages for newscasts. He’s also the social media moderator for NBC Chicago’s Instagram account. That means he’s constantly out on the street, hoping to capture the day’s most-newsworthy events along with Chicago’s unique culture and distinctive energy.
Photo by Noel Montenegro
While Montenegro says there’s no such thing as a typical workday, he usually begins his with coffee, email, and social media before heading out for his 2 p.m. shift. Of the photojournalist lifestyle, he says, “Our office is this awesome city. We go where the news takes us.”
Montenegro wasn’t always this mobile. Prior to starting his photojournalism career ten years ago, he was an office-bound production assistant.
Today, he only spends about one hour each day at Chicago’s NBC Tower, once the location of The Jerry Springer Show and now home to Judge Mathis and, of course, NBC’s newsroom. The vast majority of Montenegro’s time goes to the NBC Live truck and various filming locations, where he gathers material for the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news.
Lock and load! This is a little taste of the Photog Pre-Flight Check routine at #NBCChicago It ensures everyone’s safety. And ensures we’re ready to capture the day’s news for you. From your friendly neighborhood photog @noelamadeus #riseandgrind #newslife . . . #safetravels #instavideo #chicagogram #NBC #NBC5 #NBCnewsPics #ChicagoLand #JustGoShoot #MichiganAve #insta_chicago #ChicagoRiver #NBCchi #aroundchicago #igerschicago #NBC4NY #ILWX #yourchicago #igersmidwest #ChicagoLoop #ChicagoPhotography #chiarchitecture #chicagoshots #chigood #Chicago_USA #PostThePeople #lincolnpark #StoryTeller
Trading in the nine-to-five grind has affected Montenegro in a number of ways. “It keeps me active and connected to the world—but connected to the world in reality, not just virtually through my phone,” he explains. “The most difficult part of the job is knowing when to disconnect, and then actually disconnecting—my phone needs a charge!” There are other challenges. While the technology associated with his truck—in essence a mobile production studio—allows him to start editing in the field, he’s always conscious of unexpected interruptions. “The news gathering process is not always complicated, but it is out of our control,” Montenegro says. “We’re always at the whim of our environment. There are camera malfunctions, even wardrobe malfunctions. People want to chitchat with us when we’re busy working.”
But there are major advantages, too. Not being tied to a desk means that Montenegro gets to enjoy more physical activity and, in the warmer months, great weather. Another perk is meeting “the people who make the world turn,” he says, “from politicians to sports stars. People who are victims to people who are heroes.”
It’s an exciting life, both personally and professionally, and it wouldn’t be possible without the technology that allows him to work on the move and be productive without having to sacrifice the freedom to explore the city he loves.