Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another accident waiting to happen: reporters running their own live trucks

Every year I've run a warning about pushing the envelope during hurricane or storm coverage. A lot of people don't listen. Perhaps the sad fact that three storm chasers died recently might make managers and field crews put safety ahead of sensational coverage.

But there's another accident waiting to happen on the horizon. It's the disturbing trend of having reporters run their own live trucks. As if those who are one man bands don't have enough to do already, this will add another item to the list of duties. The problem is that this job requirement isn't an editorial one, but a technical one. And of all the dangerous things to do in this business, driving and operating a live truck is right near the top.

I was riding in a live truck many years ago when our mast clipped an underpass. Though bolted to the floor of the truck, it ripped those bolts right out of the floor and flew up between me and the photog so fast that we didn't realize what happened. Had either of our seats been directly in front of the mast, which was the case in our other truck, one of us would have been killed.

I worked with another photog who inadvertently put his mast up into a power line and was severely burned.

Driving live trucks is another story. I had to do it on many occasions, and always hated it because it was an unstable top-heavy vehicle. I had too many things to worry about while thinking about my story; don't drive through the tunnel because the clearance is too low, don't take turns too fast, don't go fast, period. While I never had to actually run a live truck, I know what goes into it. It's somewhat of an art, and, if you don't know what you're doing, it could be a deadly one.

So the beancounters out there who have come up with this crazy idea need to re-think it. Sure, you can save a salary by turning two man crews into one man bands, but you are putting way too much on a reporter's plate when you add live truck duties into the mix. I really hope I'm wrong, but I think it's only a matter of time before a reporter running his own truck gets seriously injured. While you're thinking about your story, what you'll say in your live shot, writing something for the web, Facebook, Twitter... your full attention cannot possibly be on operating something that absolutely requires your full attention.

If you're at a station that uses this practice, send out your tapes and get outta there. 

And if you're one of the people instituting this insane practice... you'd better be able to look yourself in the mirror when someone gets hurt. Or worse.


Anonymous said...

OMG! You read my mind. For 2 years, this was me! I was a one man band reporter, live truck operator responsible for liveshots in the station's 5 and 6 newscast, and the equipment manager. It was insane, and I wondered if I could make it 2 years. I did, and moved on, but it was an insane amount of work, I'll never do again. The only reason why I did it was because it was my first gig, and when it was offered, I sent out over 100 resumes, got about 4 call backs, and one offer (from this station.)I wanted a job and took this lemon and made lemonade. But I would never recommend a kid out of college looking for a gig take a job with that offer EVER!

Holly said...

This is gorgeous!