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  1. #1
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    Thumbs down The reporter's side

    This is from one of our local papers, The Santa Rosa Press Gazzette:
    Woman on the Edge - Abuse of power
    By Lynne Hough
    2007-08-15 11:59:00
    I stand 5'5 and am the mother of five children. I have two grandchildren. I constantly struggle with my weight and face all the challenges other working moms and dads face: juggling daycare, enough time for everyone...etc.

    I make the best roast ever. My towels smell like Downey and I collect quilts. I have 12 African violets in my living room. My favorite is the pink and white one. So delicate.

    Sounds like your fairly average 40-something working mom, huh?

    Well, Monday morning at the scene of that terrible accident on Hwy. 87 near Berrydale, you would have thought I was the devil on a mission to destroy mankind.

    Because I wear an identification tag that says I'm a reporter, because I have a camera, and the fortitude to show up at accidents and fires others have no desire to be anywhere near, I'm the bad guy.

    On Monday, I was accosted by a firefighter, two sheriff's deputies, one FHP trooper (twice) and the county public information officer.

    I find the entire situation ludicrous and wonder what they all do with their time when I'm not around.

    I arrived at the crash to get photos for the paper, as well as to absorb the atmosphere of the crash scene. Firsthand exposure to something like that, watching the firefighters and would-be rescuers trying to help that man, seeing a Lifeguard Ambulance paramedic and EMT covered in dirt and diesel fuel after they tried to gain access to the man trapped under the rig, seeing someone providing cold drinks to overheated and frustrated emergency workers... I have a photo of a firefighter, on his knees in front of the 18-wheeler, just feet from where the victim was trapped and deceased. He's all alone, and even from behind it is easy to imagine the look on his face, the thought process he's going through, as well as the grieving. In the next shot, he's on his stomach, almost under the front of the truck...like he's not willing to give up, even though is it beyond too late.

    This is why I go to accidents and fires. I bring my camera to do my job and I observe what is going on so I can share what I saw with everyone else who was not there.

    But my day Monday at this crash began with a firefighter yelling at me to leave. I was not near the crash. I was 40 or 50 feet away, in a ditch on the edge of a cotton field. I was not in danger. I was not in his way or anyone else's way. When he told me to leave, I refused and I told him I wanted to see the incident commander.

    The incident commander came over to talk to me and I promised to stay back, told him it was fine. He seemed okay with that.

    Then a sheriff's deputy walks up to me and wants to talk about it. He was nice, but in my opinion, he had no right to say anything to me about staying back from the crash. I never was close to the crash. It was a moot point.

    Apparently, these contacts weren't enough and the next thing I know, the FHP trooper who arrived on the scene is ordering me further back. I discussed the issue with him and was threatened with arrest. I moved back past a pick-up truck, where he ordered me.

    All this time, I continued to take photos.

    A few minutes later, the trooper finds me and kindly tells me I can move closer, than he had just arrived at the scene and didn't know what was going on yet.

    I moved to his patrol car, my next boundary.

    The trooper began talking with some people and from what I could hear, they were trying to locate the victim's family.

    I took some photos of the medical helicopter leaving, stayed behind my designated boundary, and then noticed citizens standing closer to the crash than I was allowed to be. I saw people standing in their front yard, closer than I was allowed.

    A firefighter approached me and offered to talk a little about the crash. We walked into the front yard of a home across from the crash, where I was approached by the Santa Rosa County public information officer, who offered her services in finding me information. I had noticed two Lifeguard employees, covered in dirt, who had obviously been under the truck. I asked her if she could get their names. She said she would. After I finished talking to the firefighter, I realized I could get their names myself because they were only 30 or so feet from me. Besides, I wanted to hear in their words why they went under the truck, and how they felt about it.

    I joined a group of firefighters, paramedics and EMTs standing at the end of a driveway, not at all far from the crash. I was told the man's body had been removed. There were at least 20-30 people in the immediate vicinity, indicating to me it was a safe area to stand. While I spoke with the paramedic, I was approached by the Santa Rosa County PIO again who informed me I needed to go to the tree in the private yard where the trooper would issue a statement. I was busy talking to the paramedic and told her 'okay', but I did not move. She informed me I needed to do as she asked and I refused, telling her I was not leaving.

    The next thing I know, the trooper is behind me again. I have no idea if she summoned him or he just noticed I wasn't behind his car anymore. In the middle of this scene, with the public just feet away, paramedics, firefighters, and sheriff's deputies wandering around everywhere, he singled me out and asked me why I wasn't near his car anymore. After a short discussion, I was again threatened with arrest. I had completed my interview and told him I was leaving. As I left, I noticed a television camera crew at the designated tree, filming the scene right over the trooper's shoulder.

    Okay, seven negative contacts at one accident. I was threatened, yelled at, talked down to and ordered around.

    Why?

    Because I'm the media?

    I have a problem with that.

    My position at the paper makes me a threat to police officers, firefighters and public information officers?

    I cannot explain that concept.

    If I am not in the way...not only not in the way, but 50 or more feet back from the scene...and I'm not in danger or causing anyone else to be in danger, what right do they have to order me around?

    They don't.

    I wasn't breaking any laws.

    I had a legitimate reason to be there.

    But I was treated like a criminal and threatened with arrest.

    It is my job to document what goes on in Santa Rosa County. I can't do that from behind my desk. I'm going to fires and I'm going to accidents and I'm going to shoot pictures and I'm going to tell the stories of the people whose lives are affected.

    If that somehow threatens "officials" who have the power and control to tell me what to do and threaten me, then I have only one question.

    When is visitation?


  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    They should have arrested her the 2nd time she disregarded the direct orders. It isn't up to her to decide where is safe and where she can be.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
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    Default Shooting yourself in the foot

    Unless provoked, reporters want to be your biggest allies. Everybody once wanted to be a firefighter, even reporters. In California, state law allows a reporter to be anywhere, including in harm's way, unless the reporter is directly interfering with emergency ops. If Florida doesn't have such a law, it should.

    This situation, if it occurred the way the reporter describes it, was a travesty. Now you have a reporter who will be skeptical of firefighters when she started out in awe of them. If she had been allowed to do her job, the resulting story would have had "heroes" written all over it. Now they are chumps.

    Keep in mind that somewhere down the line your fire department probably will want to go to the voters for something--a tax increase, bond issue, donations, support for an embattled chief, "come to our pancake breakfast." Every encounter with a reporter beforehand helps build your reputation in the minds of the voters. You can be heroes worthy of community support. Or not.

    Chuck
    Longtime reporter-editor,
    Fire Technology student
    and board member of a fire protection district

  4. #4
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Playing the role of PIO on more than one occasion...

    Just like the aforementioned reporter's story, there are stories of reporters who ignore the facts given and fabricate their stories. They, just like the reporter's "negative contacts" give their profession a bad image.

    I have a pretty good working realtionship with the media. I do some freelance writing and reporter for two small weekly newspapers, and know all about deadlines and word counts, and as a comuunications major in college I have been on "both sides of the camera".
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 08-19-2007 at 11:59 PM. Reason: spelling correction...
    ‎"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

  5. #5
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    This reporter obviously thinks she knows better than everyone else what is safe and where she should be. Perhaps she should be given a white helmet and she can be command at the next big accident.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  6. #6
    Forum Member Higby916's Avatar
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    Sounds like she won't be getting anywhere near her "next big story". I think from behind the lens people tend to forget that the danger still exists, they are still dealing with human beings who have families, loved ones, husbands, wives, etc, etc who don't always need to see these photos. Why things always have to be sensationalized is beyond the realm of my understanding. The trapped man's wife doesn't necessarily need to see how torn up his vehicle was or how mangled he may have been, and why this reporter thinks it's her duty to show the world an accident... I don't get it. Most people don't want or need to see what we do and that's why we do it and they don't. Staring at it on the news on in the paper doesn't change their life, it makes some shuder and say, "I didn't need to see that." Where is it written that it is the reporter's duty to make sure the general public sees this. How about a story about the hard work the emergency services do and the lengths they will take to keep nosy people off the scene and out of the way... and out of harm's way?? I guess that never occurs to them when all they want is the "next big story" or the "best picture". I guess this part I understand, but for the love of God do what you're asked to do and maybe you'll end up with a great story and some really good pictures, nose in and get in the way and you might as well F%$# off.
    Vita brevis; terra larga.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjohn23 View Post
    Because I wear an identification tag that says I'm a reporter, because I have a camera, and the fortitude to show up at accidents and fires others have no desire to be anywhere near, I'm the bad guy.
    No she is not the bad guy, just someone with an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

    I was 40 or 50 feet away, in a ditch on the edge of a cotton field. I was not in danger. I was not in his way or anyone else's way. When he told me to leave, I refused and I told him I wanted to see the incident commander.
    Not your job to decide what is dangerous or safe. As IC, I would have ordered her back to a safe area (that's my job) and if she refused, the PD would remove her.

    The incident commander came over to talk to me and I promised to stay back, told him it was fine. He seemed okay with that.
    Then she proceeds not to stay back.

    Then a sheriff's deputy walks up to me and wants to talk about it. He was nice, but in my opinion, he had no right to say anything to me about staying back from the crash. I never was close to the crash. It was a moot point.
    What a pompous ***.

    Apparently, these contacts weren't enough and the next thing I know, the FHP trooper who arrived on the scene is ordering me further back. I discussed the issue with him and was threatened with arrest. I moved back past a pick-up truck, where he ordered me.
    He cut her a break, he should have arrested her.


    I took some photos of the medical helicopter leaving, stayed behind my designated boundary, and then noticed citizens standing closer to the crash than I was allowed to be. I saw people standing in their front yard, closer than I was allowed.
    What people? If they were bystanders, than she should be allowed the same access. If they were emergency responders, family, witnesses then she has no right to be near them. If people were standing on their own private property, then she has to ask them permission to stand there.

    I asked her if she could get their names. She said she would. After I finished talking to the firefighter, I realized I could get their names myself because they were only 30 or so feet from me.
    Assistance offered but she knows she can do better.

    Besides, I wanted to hear in their words why they went under the truck, and how they felt about it.
    This is the part that gets me HOW THE HELL DO YOU THINK THEY FEEL??????

    I joined a group of firefighters, paramedics and EMTs standing at the end of a driveway, not at all far from the crash. I was told the man's body had been removed. There were at least 20-30 people in the immediate vicinity, indicating to me it was a safe area to stand. While I spoke with the paramedic, I was approached by the Santa Rosa County PIO again who informed me I needed to go to the tree in the private yard where the trooper would issue a statement. I was busy talking to the paramedic and told her 'okay', but I did not move. She informed me I needed to do as she asked and I refused, telling her I was not leaving.
    Again, that is grounds for arrest.

    The next thing I know, the trooper is behind me again. I have no idea if she summoned him or he just noticed I wasn't behind his car anymore. In the middle of this scene, with the public just feet away, paramedics, firefighters, and sheriff's deputies wandering around everywhere, he singled me out and asked me why I wasn't near his car anymore. After a short discussion, I was again threatened with arrest. I had completed my interview and told him I was leaving. As I left, I noticed a television camera crew at the designated tree, filming the scene right over the trooper's shoulder.

    Okay, seven negative contacts at one accident. I was threatened, yelled at, talked down to and ordered around.

    Why?
    Because is appears that she thinks her press ID and camera gives her the authority to do whatever it takes to get a story.

    Because I'm the media?

    I have a problem with that.

    My position at the paper makes me a threat to police officers, firefighters and public information officers?

    I cannot explain that concept.
    Definitely not a threat. The media is a partner in informing the public of events. It just individuals with an inflated sense of worth, a know it all attitude, and no clue as to what is going on that we can't stand.
    If I am not in the way...not only not in the way, but 50 or more feet back from the scene...and I'm not in danger or causing anyone else to be in danger, what right do they have to order me around?

    They don't.

    I wasn't breaking any laws.

    I had a legitimate reason to be there.

    But I was treated like a criminal and threatened with arrest.

    It is my job to document what goes on in Santa Rosa County. I can't do that from behind my desk. I'm going to fires and I'm going to accidents and I'm going to shoot pictures and I'm going to tell the stories of the people whose lives are affected.

    If that somehow threatens "officials" who have the power and control to tell me what to do and threaten me, then I have only one question.

    When is visitation?
    She failed to follow and ignored lawful orders because she knows better and lied to the IC and the police. Got me, I can't see why they got upset over her presence.
    Last edited by KenNFD1219; 08-19-2007 at 01:05 PM.
    -------------------
    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
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    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

  8. #8
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    I spent 12 years as a photographer for two daily newspapers in southern Ohio, and currently do freelance work, mostly for the Asssociated Press, and have run into this type of thing before.

    First, understand that this reporter has a good idea how the rescuers feel. However, she can't quote them unless she asks. A reporter cannot put into print how she "thinks or imagines" a person feels. That's why they ask what may seem to be a stupid question.

    Secondly, hate to break it to you, but yes, overwhelmingly yes, people want to see this stuff. They want to know. Single-copy sales always go way up when something like this leads the front page. Like or not (I don't), thats the way it is. Of the top ten selling papers at one of the dailies I worked at, nine were papers leading with either a fatal/serious injury accident, fire or murder.

    Now, do I think that we firemen, emts, law enforcement etc. are more qualified to determine were is safe? Of course. But remember, the IC spoke with her and seems satisfied with what she was doing (according to her). The problem comes when others, probably with not enough to do on scene, get excited in these high tension situations and start to overmanage the scene.

    Having said all of that, I agree there were some grounds for arrest. When asked or told to move at a scene, I always complied even if I knew I was right. If I felt I was wronged I took it up with them and their superiors the next day. This was very effective as I found greater cooperation at future events. Also, I figured I could make better pictures from distance than the back of a police car.

    I'm not saying that we should let media type run the scene or run all over the scene, but as mentioned, a good working relationship with the media goes a long way when its fundraiser, bond or levy time. If they are truly in he way or creating additional hazards, deal with them. Otherwise, let them do their job as we do ours.

    Remember, they don't want to be injured or cause injury any more than we do. The number one rule in field reporting is "report the story, do not become the story"

    Scott Osborne, FF/EMT-P
    Portsmouth (OH) Fire Department

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    First of all, I apologize for bringing up what appears to be a (somewhat) older post, but I wanted to offer my opinion, as well.

    The media can be both a blessing and a curse, depending mostly on if they're going to paint you in a good light (cutting the patient out, who goes on to live a long, healthy life and sing your praises) or in a bad light (picking your nose on a hazmat while waiting for a team to show up). Establishing a good working relationship BEFORE these incidents should help to sway them to painting a (more) favorable picture.

    I've been on both sides, like many who've posted here. I used to function as a firefighter here in Maryland (I'm certified as a Maryland firefighter 1 and 2), and am now my department's PIO. I ride the apparatus (when space allows), alongside firefighters, and get off and start shooting pictures. These then are screened for what they show (neither I nor my department want to paint us in a bad light, nor give anyone with an axe to grind visual means to do so), and, when the incident or occasion is appropriate, I write up a press release and send it, along with pictures (when suitable) to the local newspapers. They (the newspapers) don't see to mind; more often than not, they run it, unedited (I try to make it as factually and grammatically correct as I can).

    I'm not going to claim to be familiar with many laws pertaining to photography on someone's personal property. However, I'd surmise that, so long as a public area which a public servant, acting in the capacity of their position (e.g., police officer or firefighter) doesn't deem the area to be unsafe or a hinderance, a member of the press shouldn't be hindered from gaining access to the area. If a member of the general public can access the area, I see no reason why a member of the press shouldn't be able to.

  10. #10
    Forum Member TFMBob's Avatar
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    Wink 1st Amendment [BoR] U.S. Constitution:

    First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution


    CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.

    The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on December 15, 1791:

    “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” — Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966)

    “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” — Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

    “First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought." —Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Ashcroft V. Free Speech Coalition

    Lynne Hough: It is my job to document what goes on in Santa Rosa County. I can't do that from behind my desk. I'm going to fires and I'm going to accidents and I'm going to shoot pictures and I'm going to tell the stories of the people whose lives are affected.
    Some "officials" have forgotten, or ignor the U.S. Constitution, mainly because it is not taught [anymore] in the public schools. Some "officials" like to take control and give orders any time the opportunity arises, "AUTHORITY...gives 'em a feeling of POWER"...for the moment.

    Keep on photographing and reporting Lynne Hough, and use common sense to stay out of the way. The citizens NEED to know HOW their tax funds are being spent, the workings of various departments (both good and bad)...keeping all govenment "officials" accountable.
    "we learn from history...that we do not learn from history"

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber WaterbryVTfire's Avatar
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    One thing we need to remember. This is her job and she was/is told to go to this kind of thing. I am sure she would much rather go to the 'flower show" or "beautiful baby pagent".
    Let's cut them a "little" slack. And like was said, they can be your best friend or worst enemy! The story they report on tomorrow could be the bond vote for the new station or the Union vote on raises or equipment.
    "If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."
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    Quote Originally Posted by TFMBob View Post
    First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution


    CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW ...
    So what's your point? Nobody prevented this bimbo from reporting her story. She was simply prevented from entering the scene during operations. If she'd gotten spoken to that many times at an incident around here she'd probably be writing her story from behind bars.

    The 1st Amendment doesn't preclude restricting physical access to an evolving incident.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Forum Member TFMBob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    So what's your point?
    Obviously...you missed the POINT. I guess we must ARGUE and "do the name-calling thing" about everything nowdays.

    Sorry I mentioned the Constitution..."that old fashioned document" that dosen't mean much anymore to anyone.
    "we learn from history...that we do not learn from history"

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    Quote Originally Posted by TFMBob View Post
    Obviously...you missed the POINT. I guess we must ARGUE and "do the name-calling thing" about everything nowdays.
    Thanks, but I didn't miss anything. You didn't have a point -- just a tangent.

    Quote Originally Posted by TFMBob View Post
    Sorry I mentioned the Constitution..."that old fashioned document" that dosen't mean much anymore to anyone.
    The Constitution and the Bill of Rights means everything. You have to apply it rationally for it to be meaningful.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Forum Member TFMBob's Avatar
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    I was not there either, however according to the "reporters" story, she was in the SAFE ZONE. Sounds like there was a different opinion of where the "ZONE" was...depending on which "official" was giving the orders. Was there YELLOW CRIME SCENE TAPE designating a UNSAFE/SAFE ZONE...or just a "line in the sand" ?

    The incident commander came over to talk to me and I promised to stay back, told him it was fine. He seemed okay with that.
    Then a sheriff's deputy walks up to me and wants to talk about it. He was nice, but in my opinion, he had no right to say anything to me about staying back from the crash. I never was close to the crash. It was a moot point.
    In the middle of this scene, with the public just feet away, paramedics, firefighters, and sheriff's deputies wandering around everywhere, he singled me out and asked me why I wasn't near his car anymore.
    From this, it "appears" that the Trooper had some sort of problem with THIS reporter, as she was "singled-out."
    Some "officials" like to take control and give orders any time the opportunity arises, "AUTHORITY...gives 'em a feeling of POWER"...for the moment.
    PIO's are only an extension of "officials," who tell the PIO what and what not to say...often not the REAL story...just what "they" want the public to hear or see. “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” This was my "point.

    Maybe reporters/photographers should be kept back at least 300ft. from every incident, then when everyone wants to see the "videos and photos" of what happened long after it's over...they can rely on the stuff the "officials" took.
    "we learn from history...that we do not learn from history"

  16. #16
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    Spent 25 years as a reporter in my previous life, now I have 10 years as a FF and EMT.

    That said, I think she was trying to make a point that because she was a reporter, she was treated differently than others who were also at the scene. She made reference to bystanders and others who were allowed to be closer. If this is true, then why was she forced to be back farther from the scene......probably because she was a reporter.

    Been there myself.....on both ends....... at a scene, many times there is a little bit of an "authority rush" that takes place..... not a bad thing mind you, without it, there is no command and control, but, sometimes it extends to a greater degree than is necessary.

    How many times have you been on a scene and you hear, or say, "Super! the press is here to show what we do and let the public know whats going on?" My guess is.....never....... normally, it's (myself included) say "oh great here comes the blood-sucking press".

    If what she said is true, and it sounds close enough to reality to be that.... She probably has a point......obviously she has no right to determine what a safe zone is, but it seems that if others were allowed closer...then she should have that full access too.

    We don't have to like the fact that some in the press go out of bounds with gruesome photo's ect... but we do need to realize that most reporters aren't that way and are just doing thier job, and as long as they are not interfering with our job they need to have access.

    Just as it is not a reporters job to decide what a safe-zone is.....neither is it a FF's job to decide what they should or should not report on.

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    You guys are going about this all wrong. You missed this sentence. This is the most important sentence in the thread:

    Unless provoked, reporters want to be your biggest allies.
    It has been my experience that this is the absolute truth. People want to see the human side of emergency services. By working with the press, YOU control the message that goes out and can, with damn near 100% accuracy, that the information is positive.

    Here are a couple of things I have learned in my too many years of experience:

    1. Most reporters are not looking to produce a piece for 60 Minutes. Most of them want to get visuals and quotes to make their piece more interesting. She did the interview. She probably could have had a few more if she had cooperated. She most certainly would have gotten her shots if she had cooperated. That aside, most media are going to go to the designated press area. The lesson here is DESIGNATE A PRESS AREA and make sure that someone is there with timely and accurate information.

    2. Work these matters out BEFORE the job. Sit down with the press people normally assigned to your area. Get to know them. You will find that they are usually genuinely interesting people who would be very interested in writing positive stories about your FD-even non emergency information.

    3. You are NEVER off the record.

    4. NEVER say "No comment".

    5. NEVER compromise a police investigation. You should only provide information about the things YOU or your FD does. If they want information on the fire cause or the collision cause or the cause of death, that is not your job. Refer that reporter to the appropriate agency.

    6. The press is not your enemy unless YOU declare war.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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