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11.11.2002
FOR SAFETY'S SAKE
Think·Please
From MediaLine's bulletin board (www.medialine.com) in September:

I'm sure everyone's hot office topic today will be the KC Royals' first base coach who was attacked by two guys on the field in Chicago last night. Bizarre and disturbing situation. Fortunately for the coach, he had players and security personnel rush to his aid within seconds.

Watching the video makes me wonder how vulnerable reporters and crew [members] are while out covering a story. Think about it. Thirty minutes later, these same two guys could just as easily have jumped any Chicago reporter doing a liveshot somewhere.

Obviously, they had no concern for repercussions for what they did at the baseball game. I can't imagine they would have stopped at doing the exact same thing during a liveshot.

By comparison, that recent incident between the reporter and purse-swinging young woman in Jacksonville almost appeared comical. But think how different it could have been, had the purse been a knife.

What happened in Chicago last night should make us stop and realize that unprovoked attacks are a very real danger. Especially when you consider how "unwelcome" we often are. And reporters and crews in dark alleys don't have police and angry baseball players to offer protection.

I guess I'm just throwing this out for discussion, but how safe do you feel out there? As a reporter or photog, who's watching your back? What can/ should be done to make it safer?

Wow...real food for thought.

More comments, same thread:

...I've had my share of scares over the years...

...one of them has me doing my best "aw shucks whine" as a drunken arsonist is trying to wrench the camera off my shoulder at a fire he set...

...another one has some gang bangers pushing and blocking shots, spitting on the lens and generally being pissed as I was shooting a funeral procession for a 12-year-old kid killed in one of their little wars. One of them had on a leather jacket with a bulge underneath it...never saw a gun, but I have always thought one was there. I said nothing, [worked] my way around them and kept rolling...

And more comments from the same thread:

Think about this for a moment÷a Pittsburgh reporter gets seriously smacked around in a car wash. A 22-year-old Texas reporter gets killed in her own apartment. Jodi Huisentruit disappears without a trace, a clue, or a suspect. Don Tanner, murdered. Dan Pearl dies at the hand of kidnappers. And that's just in the last year or so.

If this topic doesn't make you pause and think about the safety aspect of your job, then you're not thinking.

Think.

Here are my tips. Reporters: When your photog's eye is in the viewfinder, you should be watching his back. Photogs: When your reporter's eye is on an interview subject, you should be watching his back.

It's amazing what a couple of seconds warning might mean. Just ask the Royals' first base coach.

Another entry to this thread talked about the physiological dangers of working in television, such as bad nutrition, lack of exercise, cell phone use while driving, and fatigue. It also reiterated the importance of safety programs:

If your station is giving safe operation of vehicles a low priority, I can guarantee it will catch up with you...and you do not want to go through the aftermath of an ENG accident. It's a nightmare for all concerned.

What is your station doing about it? Who is liable if you try and defend your reporter or photographer from an assault? Is it possible that you can be held personally liable if you get into an altercation and hurt a bystander, no matter how guilty they are for their role in the tussle?

Has your station given thought to some sort of defensive training? Not only would a person with such training be better equipped to defend herself, but she would also be in better physical condition for the other rigors of the job. Win-win? It's no secret that the role and public opinion of TV people has changed. Incidents ranging from equipment thefts, assaults, and even murder place journalists in peril all over the globe. Field people need to know their boundaries, and stations should inform their employees of policy regarding theft, assault, and threats. At what time should a crew leave a scene if being there presents a danger? What exactly is the definition of a danger?

Thinking? Good.

Mark Bell publishes the ENG Safety Newsletter. He can be reached at: safety@engsafety.com.



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