Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When the big story hits, you need a rolling closet

It never fails. You get a call from the newsroom and some major story has just broken. But you're twenty minutes from home and wearing a tee-shirt and shorts. Or you're all dressed up and the story is in a muddy field and it's pouring. And if you tell the Assignment Editor you need an hour to go home and change, that story might go to someone else who is ready to rock.

I'll never forget one weekend when I was filling in doing weather and a big story broke. The anchor on duty was frantically trying to find a reporter (this was before cell phones) and finally got in touch with our high maintenance rookie. After telling her it was a major story, the response was, "But my hair is a mess. I'll need a couple of hours to get ready."

Being prepared to "jump and go" is part of seizing the opportunities in this business. If you're home and can't go there's no excuse. But if you're away from home, there is a solution.

All good reporters stock the trunks of their cars with clothes. One good outfit, one outfit you wouldn't mind throwing away.

The good outfits are obvious. The bad ones include jeans or old khakis, old shoes or sneakers (we used to call them "mudders"), waterproof boots, a rain slicker, decent looking shirts or tops you wouldn't mind tossing, a baseball hat. A batch of towels. Cold weather gear. A mirror, comb, and whatever you need to look presentable. And pack extra things like shirts, socks and underwear, as you might be out in the field awhile. Two pairs of everything is a good idea. A few bottles of water is also a good idea.

Oh yeah, a roll of toilet paper. (Laugh now, but you'll thank me later.)

Most photogs have this stuff, so you can get a good idea by peeking in the back of a news car.

Anything else you use on a regular basis, toss it in the trunk. Men, be advised that some forms of makeup will melt.

Be prepared, and the next time the big story hits you'll be ready to grab it.

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