Shooting Safely Under The Terrorist Threat

While news reporting has always carried its risks, never has that been more obvious in the U.S. than now. We are under constant threat by terrorists. A terrorist performs a violent act in order to demonstrate his cause to the world. That's where TV news people come in. Live TV news seems to be a likely target for terrorism, as news crews get drawn to the scene and act as a megaphone for any deed, even if it happens to them.

Additionally, while many stations have security at/in their buildings, live TV is much more vulnerable, as it takes the broadcast operation right into the street.

The terror may not have to be a bomb or envelope containing anthrax delivered to the station. A malicious act on live TV will do. Such an act will be known by all with a TV or radio as fast as it took the world to learn about the anthrax powder delivered to Tom Brokaw's office. Perhaps people will watch TV just to make sure their favorite newscasters or celebrities are safe. The terrorist act doesn't have to be that substantial to create a panic—just there. That's why TV is the "perfect" target for terrorists. Field pros need to be extra vigilant with regard to security on their live shots. Who's there? What's going on around the scene? Who's around the van?

Nobody has the legal right to interfere with a licensed and appropriate broadcast signal transmission. Given this, a stranger closing in on a pre-established perimeter, set up for such a transmission, can be enough cause for alarm that the crew should be suspicious about a person or persons not showing regard or common sense respect for what's taking place.

Crews should work with their managers, law enforcement authorities, and other stations to create policies which may include setting up perimeters around live shots which will isolate crews from the general public. Crews always have the power to be careful and observant, and should use all the tools they can. Nothing should be taken for granted. Station managers wouldn't take the walls down from their station buildings, would they? Live shots are the station without walls. It also may be the time to rethink the wisdom of those marked vehicles (CBS in New York used to have plain white vans but now they are branded—might they go back?).

Here are some tips for shooting under a terrorist threat:
*Isolate your area, either physically with ribbon, vehicles, cable, or another type of visual obstruction.
*Post signs telling people to stay away from your equipment and vans.
*Scope out the know what the common "vidiots" look like. Beware of strangers and strange people.
*Group up with other broadcasters when possible. Pool geographic resources, place vans and valuables where everyone can monitor them, and vans can be watched for intruders.
*Warn interview subjects to be cautious, and instruct them to point out any suspicious activity taking place behind the interviewer.
*Take extra care to understand your news coverage objective on every story. Impulsively rushing out to the scene is your expected reaction. Check out the surroundings...explore

the area. Every environment is potentially dangerous.

Be cautious, and let's hope this alert status ends soon