Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Covering Breaking News: House Fire & High Speed Chase

It's common practice to listen to the scanner for anything that sounds newsworthy: Structure fire, grassfire, shots fired. Mostly anything with the word "fire" in it.

Three times in the past week we would hear one of those key words on the scanner. Usually there is increased buzz on the radio and suddenly everyone is listening for an address. When we get that address, someone will mapquest directions to the location, someone else will get a camera kit ready, and the reporter or photog who's going out to the scene grabs anything they need (pad of paper, water bottle, car keys, etc.)

Those three times, I've been the reporter sent out to the story.

I've even joked that my beat is now breaking news that pulls me away from fronting a story in the 6:00 show.

On Tuesday, a fully-involved structure fire was the cause for me being sent out. In TV it's all about images and speed. Thankfully, I was the first TV reporter on scene and was only beaten by the Mail Tribune (Medford's Newspaper). I was quickly greeted by the Fire's Public Information Officer (the person who distributes information and handles press) and he pointed me in the direction of some of the still lingering flames. Being semi-competitive, I was happy to be the only TV reporter with video of flames, albeit small ones.
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire. I did a folo on the story on Wednesday.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On Wednesday, I was sent out after the scanner reported a woman was injured after being hit by a bullet. The story was 30 minutes away, but we figured it might be newsworthy and didn't want another station to have the story when we didn't. So I dropped what I was doing for the 6 and headed out. The house was up a two mile dirt road and about halfway a Sheriff's car pulled over and flagged me down. He said nothing had happened. No one was hurt, no one was shot, nothing special. Then he tipped me off to a high speed pursuit involving a stolen car in Central Point. He said the chase started in Gold Hill (about 7 miles from Central Point), police used a spike strip, the suspect fled on foot, and was captured. The only location he had heard was that it was south of Scenic Rd (which I was introduced to because of the story above)

I headed out to the neighborhood and asked a few people walking around if they had heard or seen anything. No dice. I kept driving and found a Sheriff, he said he had just been called on to duty and didn't know much. He thought he had heard something about Victoria St. I headed there. I saw some neighbors and asked them what they had seen. I kept building on that and asked maybe ten people what they had seen or heard or knew. Slowly I began to piece together the story and shot some video.

After running around and talking to neighbors to police to custodians at a nearby school to kids to coaches of a football practice happening nearby, I had my story.

I came back to the station and wrote and edited it. Then checked in with Central Point PD to make sure my information was right. It was.

I definitely didn't see any other TV stations out at the scene, and I may have seen a writer for the Mail Tribune, but I haven't seen a story update online. And at four hours later, if they have it, it should be posted. Maybe they don't have it. In which case, 12 got the scoop on the story. Excellent.

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