When you lose one, it leaves a hole in your heart.
To call Steve Baker just a good friend would be doing him a disservice. He was more than that; a big brother who was always there for me, a truly unselfish person who made the world a better place and taught me how to do it.
Steve was a television photographer, one of many I worked with over the years. Photogs and reporters have a special bond; when you spend most of the day in a news car, you don't use all your time talking about your story. Instead, you get in these incredible life discussions, and when you connect it's almost like being married at work. A great newsroom is a second family; it's hard to describe the unique camaraderie that exists in the business filled with nothing but creative, sarcastic people who all have a no-holds-barred, nothing-is-sacred sense of humor. The news industry is like one big fraternity. When we lose a member, we all feel it.
His other fraternity was the band of brothers known as Vietnam Veterans. Steve was an Air Force photographer whose amazing pictures ended up in Life magazine. He put himself in harm's way to get the best shots, as most photogs do. He ended up taking shrapnel and was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
While writers have a pen, Steve's signature was written with a camera. Where writers have a voice, Steve had a style. If you spend enough time in a newsroom you can look at a story and immediately know who shot it simply by the way it was shot and edited. Steve could manipulate light and shadows, using the forces of nature to make beautiful pictures and make those of us on camera look our best. Steve was a paradox; a tough as nails military vet who showed viewers how beautiful the world can be. Several years older than our reporters, he was our newsroom dad.
He was also part of the most fun newsroom I've ever worked in, always involved in some of the most elaborate practical jokes you could imagine. And he loved doling out payback. Once we were doing a live shot in New Orleans and another crew from New York kept getting in our shot, waving and acting unprofessional. A few months later Steve and I were in Orlando, and, lo and behold, saw the same crew. Steve wanted to write something on their car, but we didn't have any soap or shaving cream. What we did have was a bunch of jelly donuts. You can imagine what blistering Florida sun does to strawberry preserves when they're used to write on a windshield.
|Best news crew ever. That's Steve on the floor, second from left. You can probably tell this group didn't take things too seriously.|
|Steve on the left, celebrating with the staff after a ratings win.|
|Teaching an NFL star to shoot.|
I could go on forever with stories about the guy. The time we were doing a story in a dicey neighborhood: "There's a gun under the seat if you have to shoot someone." The time the video recording deck went out and he had me hold a paper clip to connect the battery: "Will you get electrocuted? Probably not." The time Steve flagged down a waiter in a New York restaurant because his coffee was ice cold. "Can I have a hot cup? I'm funny about my coffee that way." The time a former employee showed up for a visit along with his wife, who everyone despised, and someone sarcastically said, "He's here with his lovely wife." Steve's reply: "Did he get re-married?"
Along with a ton of fabulous memories Steve leaves behind an absolute gem of a wife, Linda, and one son, Kelly, who followed in his dad's footsteps and proudly serves his country as an Air Force Captain.
And a lot of friends who will miss him terribly.
Steve was still taking pictures on his travels during retirement, a photog till the end. I have no doubt that when he arrived in Heaven and saw the spectacular landscape of paradise, he asked God for a camera.