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  1. #1
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    Post Press always in the way

    I have read lots of info in news papers and in magazines about diffrent fires, mva's, ect. I am sure most of you all are fed up as I am with the press, they are a good thing in a way because they let people know whats going on. But when can people say enough!
    How many times have you all been at a working house fire and a reporter or camera man is getting to close or starting to get in the way asking questions. Or asking the next of kin about there family that just died.

    Is there any ideas on dealing with the press?


  2. #2
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    Unhappy

    A few years ago a local police officer was killed in an accident on the highway (right after he had left a traffic detail for a firefighter who had passed away). The front page of our local news rag showed a huge picture of another officer holding the dead officers hand as a flight medic was trying to intubate. It was really tastless. I can only imagine how the friends and family of that fallen officer felt seeing that horrible scene.

    I never fully trusted what the media printed, but, now I know first hand how much the media twists events and words. I would be totally happy if we had a 200 foot exclusionary zone around all calls. Maybe that would give us some breathing room.
    Bless all of our Fallen Brothers and Sisters. You will not be forgotten

  3. #3
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    They got there job, you got yours.
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

  4. #4
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    The press can be your friend or your enemy. They can make your dept. look good, or look bad. I prefer to try to make friends. Like Mongo said their tryin to do their job. Sometimes they need a little guidence. If you or your P.I.O. do not give them info they will get it somewhere and chances are it won't be right. Ban them from the scene and they will think your hiding something. Try to work with them and you both come out on top. Develop a working relationship with them and maybe you can teach them what sort of conduct and pictures are appropriate.

  5. #5
    Forum Member BucksEng91's Avatar
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    A free press is necessary for a free people, guys. You may not like some of the things they print (I don't like about 90% of the New York Times, for example!!!), but they have a right and even an obligation to determine the facts of a story and report them in an unbiased fashion.

    This is not to say that I think EVERYTHING the press does is kosher. Sometimes they need to practice some restraint - not necessarily in what they report, but how they report it. And if they get too close, the fire cops can move 'em.
    "Let's roll." - Todd Beamer, one of a group of American soldiers who handed the terrorists their first defeat.

    Joe Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone (but you can borrow them )and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated (but then again, they just may not be thinking clearly).

  6. #6
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    Mongo, F02 and Bucks are correct. It's the job of the news media to report the news. News reporters are a lot like firefighters, there are those who are willing to work with you, then there are the ones who are just a bunch of buttheads with their opinions. As my department's Public Information/Education Officer, I have dealt with my share of both!

    Every department should have a PIO for any major incident. Any requests from the media should be directed to the PIO, who can give them a fair and accurate assessement of the incident and answer any questions.

    A good working relationship with the media is essential. Use them to let the citizens of your community (you know them, they are the people that provide the funding for your personnel and equipment!) what their Fire Department is doing to protect them. Announcements of new hires, retirements, promotions, new equipment, fire safety and other information keeps the Department in the public eye.

    Treat the media fairly, they will treat you fairly in return. Treat them harshly, and you will be treated harshly in return!

    [ 12-31-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]

    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  7. #7
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    After the F-5 tornado ripped through our district in May 99, our Chief sealed off the affected areas and had strict entry procedures. The media was very controlled, maybe a little to much. Like has been said, if they don't get the story from you they WILL get it somewhere else. They reported people being rescued from a cellar after two days, False. Only one Paramedic to run Triage, False. We were searching a pond for three or four days because SAR dogs kept hitting on it. I was I.C. one particular day and I made the mistake of using one of our truck radios, instead of a handheld, to notify the Chief we needed his presence because we found something. It wasn't five minutes later we had a news chopper hovering overhead. They DO have everyones frequencies and they DO monitor. The best policy is to include them, feed them information through a PIO and be careful of what is said over the radio. If they're in the way however, remove them.


    Tell your Family you love them.

  8. #8
    RJE
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    And now a comment from the "other" side.

    I'm an ex-volunteer, and a serious fire "buff". I'm also a credentialed member of the press corp, and frequently submit to local papers as a freelance reporter/photographer.

    As such, I have some experience with dealing with fire and police at incidents from a reporter's point of view.

    I also know some of the reporters (and hear all their horror stories) about "abuse" from the FD or "denying their 1st amendment rights".

    And I work on that as well.

    Here's how I approach it. First, I go by the stations, introduce myself, get to know the captains and BCs, etc. I take photos of their rigs (and provide them w/copies) and at drills. I let them know my background as a FF. I trade "war stories".

    Then I do stories for their company newsletters or Union papers, to let them know that I will treat them right, and know what I'm talking about.

    Then, when I show up on scene, #1, I stay out of the way. If I can, I'll approach the Chief's aide (not the Chief) and as for "access" to the scene. Sometimes they let me get closer, sometimes they don't - but I understand (and usually know why).

    Since the dept "knows" me, and trusts me to do fair and accurate stories, I get some "scoops" (which doesn't endear me to the "regular" reporters). By the same token, there are some reporters that are so obnoxious, they IMMEDIATELY get a "police escort", to the area where nothing is happening.

    I tell all the reporters that I meet to respect the FD, and to stay out of the way and let them do their jobs - which is more important (saving lives) than ours (telling the story after the fact). I also ALWAYS look for the PIO first (if he's there yet), and I ALWAYS advise other reporters to do the same.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BFD196's Avatar
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    Going back to having reporters on the scene, I`ve never been at an incident where there were several news people there, but we had a house fire where a local news team showed up. The fire was already under control, but they stayed out of the way. They interviewed the chief and stuff too, without a problem. I don`t see why people are concerned about having them get in the way, if they`re preventing the IC from running the scene, or hindering some kind of operation, have the cops drag them out of there if neccesary, those cameras can zoom in from a distance, and I`m sure most chiefs will be glad to comment after things have calmed down.

  10. #10
    MFD
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    i'd don't mind the press(which is usually the local newspaper) if they follow commands the firefighters give them and stay out of the way.
    we we're at a house fire (it was dieing down and almost out) it was Febuary so it was like 20 degrees. there was a power line down(live) near this house. this guy newspaper guy getting up close to it(DUH) i ran over there and i said what are you doing? he said "taking pictures for the paper. I said "that's a live wire that can fry you now please stay away from it." then he comes back it again. I go over there(i'm a little ticked this time. I said "Look sir, I don't wanna tell your wife and if you have kids your dead cause your a moron and trying to get pictures for your damn newspaper? he said just chill out dude. I said there's no chilling out I said if i see you here again I'm gonna hit you with that the water in that hose over there. so best if you get in your car and get out of here. about 10-15 mins go by the guy goes near the live wires. i go over to russ i said give me the hose he saw me grab the hose and took he took off running.(remember it's febuary so it's like 15-20 degrees at the most out) I made sure he was far enough away from the live wire so it wouldn't shock him and i just dumped that 2.5 inch on him.I guess he got the name on the tail of my coat and called my chief and tried to get me in trouble. Chief called me and i told him what happened.he said he's the idiot who kept on going near the live wire. he said atleast he went home alive and ticked off instead of having the pictures but in a body bag. but for some reason he got taken off the job of fire photography/getting the story.

  11. #11
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    NICE! Excellent move Derek!
    IAFF
    PFANJ

  12. #12
    OLE
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    They have THEIR job and we have ours is all well and good. BUT, when the media is passing the trucks (which has happened) and we need to keep telling them time and time again to get back, its not safe for you to be here, it does get a little old. We finally had to sit down with the roving reporters and tell them that it is our responsibility to keep THEM safe and if they were to get hurt it would be the incident commander's *** on the line!!!!!! Passing fire trucks was way out of line and that was the final straw. Now we have law enforcement there to help after set up the fireline tape

  13. #13
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    Well, it's been said before, but, it should be stressed again, 'they have their job to do'. Their job is to report the news. They have deadlines, editors and other news people to compete with. So if we don't, or won't cooperate with them, they will get their information elsewhere (ie. expert neighbors etc.).

    What I have done in the past is to sit down with a photographer and say, 'Look, I'm really busy on the fireground, but, as soon as I can I will assign an officer to allow you access, in a safe area, to take pictures. They think this is great, They take distant shots until I would let them closer and once allowed in would get their closeups. He wins (he got his photos). We win (we get great action shots in the paper. Great PR.)

    As far as the reporters go, I issued a press release (maybe not immediatly, but way before their deadline). It included:
    Time of dispatch
    Time of arrival
    Conditions apon arrival
    Actions taken
    Time placed under control
    How many F/F's
    FD's responding
    Cause
    Anything unusual happen

    I also limited who could talk to the press. I didn't need some rookie F/F giving expert opinions. I also would tell the reporters that if their was any questions about the information released, you know ("It took the FD 30 mins to get here", etc) and he didn't double check with me or if he got his information about the call without a press release he and his newspaper would be limited to a " no comment" response.

    I also would allow reporters and photographers to attend and participate in training sessions and live burns. They seemed to understand our job a little bit more after that !!!

    Remember, the press could be your best friend or your worst enemy. Take the time to educate them and use them as a great way to educate the public about your department. You never know when you may need them!!

  14. #14
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    Reporters are one thing, we had Tom Green from his MTV show up at a lumber yard fire asking guys if they had yet filed their income tax returns.

    Tom Green is from Ottawa had has always pulled stunts in this city
    this one was one to remember.

    Wonder how Maplewood would deal with this situation.

    Hosing his with a 2 1/2 would have made great TV for him. Sometimes just not lowering yourself to their level shows professionalism in our job.

    "Heroes are the one's that do the little things everyday !"

  15. #15
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    Talking

    Don't mean to ride the coat tails of Lt. Fire, but always seem to be!

    We have the most respected profession in the world, so as long as we use an SOG or common sense to assist and direct the media, they will work in our favour. The most important muscle any good FireFighter has is his brain, so using it will ease tension and besides, it is the CO's job for which he should be trained.

    Saying we don't have time to properly handle the media is like saying you don't have time for station tours or Fire Prevention. They are all ways of being a resource to the Community we serve.

    I step off my soapbox and pass the bullhorn to Maplewood......

    Stay safe.

  16. #16
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    Random thoughts

    1. Since all incidents should be run using an incident management system, one of the positions that should be assigned in PIO. The PIO should not be randomly picked, but trained in this aspect of the job. A godd PIO can make all the difference in the world.

    2. At a major incident, establish a press staging area where the PIO can be available to provide frequent and ACCURATE info. This lets the press get their info and keeps them away from the scene.

    3. I have found that by giving the press photo and video guys 10 minutes of access to get shots that will play well on TV and in the paper, you will have a lot less conflict with them. Let them shoot some action shots, then get them out of the way. Be mindful of their deadlines. This way, you control where they go and what they shoot, they get what they need and everybody is happy.

    4. You will never win a battle with the press. They are better at it than you are. Do not try to fight this way. The press can be your biggest ally, especially at budget time and when the politicos start sticking their noses into your business.

    5. Be mindful of an ongoing investigation into the origin and cause of the fire. If your agncy is not responsible for the investigation, do not comment on it. Simply refer the question to that agency.

    6. NO COMMENT is the worst possible thing you can say. It alludes to deception and deceit. If you do not want to release certain information, tell them why.

    7. If you prepare a press release, be assured that you will get questions. Usually, the press is looking for a few quotes for their story. Do not deviate from the release.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  17. #17
    Forum Member Lewiston2FF's Avatar
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    Excellent advice from George, I took a course that in part dealt with working with the press, most of which George covered.
    One thing he missed however, is if the TV camaras are on you during an interview and the interview is going poorly, swear and cuss as much as you can, they cant put it on TV if the entire thing is censored.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  18. #18
    MFD
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    hey lt fire i saw that Tom Green. I didn't like that show cause you could tell those guys could careless at that point if there taxes we're filed or not. my favorite (this was way before the 9-11-01 deal) he dressed up as a NYPD officer took a cow(this was a full grown cow) into a new york city supermarket and it's eating all the produce.(the cow fine looking) and he's like my cows dieing i gotta feed it.(yet you can't see it's ribs ) then the manager comes over and says you gotta get the cow out. then he lays on the ground milking the cow into his mouth

  19. #19
    RJE
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    Good advice AC52 and George. That's exactly how I expect to be treated.

    One more point - if you have problems with a particular reporter or agency (tv station or whatever) "abusing" your rules, getting in the way, or mis-quoting or otherwise blowing the story, then cut them out of all the "good stuff".

    If you always deal with one agency, then this won't work. But if multiple agencies (say, two competing TV stations, or 1 TV and one newspaper), and one of them abuses you - then give preferential treatment to the one that treats you right.

    Then, when the "abuser" gets tired of getting scooped by the competition, they start asking why. And they get told (hopefully by the competing press, as well as the PIO for the FD) "Play by the rules, or get cut out of the story!"

  20. #20
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    Hmmmmm lets see-----you send a rookie firefighter that has an "excellent command of the English language" to warn a reporter of a hazard. And he ignores him?? Hmmm I wonder why? Then this same "articulate professional" threatens him with a charged line????? Then this same "professional" wonders why all the trucks are older than him?? HMMMMMMMMMMMM could there be a connection??? Surely not

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