Friday, March 04, 2005

Missed Opportunity ...

I would imagine every profession has its moments that carry with them an opportunity to do something above and beyond the usual level of your work ... I know it's certainly true for the media.

I was recalling one instance from my own experience. It happened while I was working the Editor's desk at the Fort Stockton Pioneer, a Thursday morning weekly that has served Pecos County for more than 100 years.

A call went out over the scanner that a suspect in an armed robbery earlier that afternoon, may be at a local motel. I grabbed a camera (one has to wear a lot of hats when you're on the small staff of a small paper) and headed to the scene. As I pulled into the parking lot, it wasn't hard to figure out which room ... it was the only one that had a line of city PD officers and county SO deputies lined-up along the wall, guns drawn, ready to head in through the door. And head in they did ... and I was just a few seconds too late. Getting out of the truck, I looked through the viewfinder just in time to see the back of the last officer disappear into the room.

There was no suspect, it was later determined that he had probably gotten right back on the highway after the robbery, and disappeared to parts unknown.

So, I missed an opportunity for a great photo. But it was also a missed opportunity for my readers, and a missed opportunity for those men going in that room. That's an aspect that some news users - and some news producers, for that matter - miss about coverage of moments like this. Those that accuse us of being 'ghouls' or 'vultures' hovering around the scene of tragedy, don't realize that they are seeing only part of the story ... and that should serve as a reminder to news producers that, sometimes, we have to do a better job of telling the complete story.

That story is not just about someone whose home has caught on fire, it's also about those who responded to the scene to put that fire out. It's not just about someone hurt in a traffic accident, it's also about those who administer emergency medical care before rushing the victim to the hospital. And it's not just about someone who called in a bomb threat, it's also about those who go into a building to search for and disarm an explosive device.

Photos taken on the scene, at the moment of crisis, offer a more compelling image of the job our emergency personnel do. And one such photo does it better than one-hundred staged 'officer stands beside cruiser with open door' photos could ever hope to accomplish.

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