The Digital Journalist

Welcome to this month's web "bp," courtesy of

In this issue: 
Danger Assessment: New Science for ENG Operations? 
Ever hear of NITEK FAST car chargers? 
TMac checks in with a "4th" tribute!

From the July 2000 ENG Safety Newsletter...... 

Danger Assessment.:  New Science for ENG Operations?

Was May 2000 the hardest month to take for ENG accidents? Was June the toughest to take in terms of “tough sledding” for crews when a van is vandalized, equipment stolen, a crew terrorized and a female reporter sexually assaulted and had a valuable ring stolen? 

Over the past year or so, just in ENG, a reporter was killed moving equipment across a street, another killed in a power line accident. Others have been maimed. Some have been injured with what may be called minor injuries. All have also been psychologically affected. 

Newsrooms and engineering departments are made up of intelligent and resourceful people. While it certainly may not be time to panic, it IS time for corporations and companies to assess the hazards for their crews and property while exercising the simple rights of performing their jobs, and plan ahead whenever possible. 

Some may feel as if the core of the issues come from the stations or corporations, and perhaps there is some validity for that. However, the last clear chance to avoid most assaults, accidents, and other unpleasant confrontations belongs to the field crew, and preparations have to be made for the lessons we have learned over the past few years, or unprepared crews will repeat the errors. 

Emergency services organizations have priorities of equipment function which allow a dependable base for knowledge of their capabilities and vulernabilities. There is always a back-up plan. Back-up is a BIG deal. For instance, they may carry an extra portable light on board in case the main fails. Extra foul-weather gear can prevent the distraction of exposure which can compromise the main mission.  Spare communications devices are also a must, and crew members don’t separate unless they have sufficient communications devices or tethers. 

Strategies for deployment are also tools of the trade. Marked vs. unmarked vehicles debates are cliche in the TV news business. Either may not fit all circumstances. Sometimes certain vehicles may not be appropriate at all. 

The image of a station may be in its programming, and  their logo emblazoned van is likely to attract attention of their audience with the thoughts of that image. If you don’t believe this, picture a PBS van on one corner and a Playboy Channel van on another. See who stops by to ask what’s going on. Who’s attracted by your station’s image? 

If the lessons of the past years have taught us anything, it’s that ENG, already a somewhat expensive proposition, can turn into one which is much more so by accident. 

Today’s crews MUST have the right tools to do the job. They need sufficient training to be able to avoid very dangerous environmental dangers such as power lines, unruly crowds, armed confrontations, and standoffs. They  also need to be aware of management support with regard to moving back a bit, or maybe leaving a scene. 

The terrorism and assaults suffered by the station during the Lakers “celebration” may been prevented if lessons from Denver, Detroit, Toronto and other “celebration” cities were reviewed during coverage preplanning.  One report  stated that anybody with a camera was a target, police videographers as well. 

Those involved in criminal activity may know that their acts are being documented, and their idea of a sure way to avoid further ID may be to destroy the video of the event, then put the documentarian out of commission. We’ve not yet seen this action at it’s extreme.  It may be just a matter of time. 

Stations and their corporations will have to decide which risks are worthwhile and which are not. Every videographer may not be a “hero” type, either. Many crews may not feel that it’s OK to back off or leave, as it’s never been specifically stated to them, or feel as if their employment is endangered if they are scared. Not going in, or getting out quicker, may have saved the LA station thousands of dollars, and maybe the crew wear and tear, too. It could have been worse. Was it worth it in the end? 

It’s up to each station to determine the price they are willing to pay for pictures and coverage.  Policies should be created consistent with such values. 

Today’s technology can facilitate any type coverage. As alternatives exist, they must be used. Tools are usually much less expensive than repairs. 

The ENG Safety Newsletter is an increasingly popular means of reminding broadcast professionals about ENG Safety, month after month. Please see details and more safety information at the ENG Safety website,


TMac's column

This week's column is about a TVCommando's
theme song: the National Anthem.  A belated
happy 4th to all!! -TMac 

Land of the free, home of the brave.

I was pondering patriotism during this week's Tribe series over the 4th of July. Specifically, I was thinking about the Star Spangled Banner. 

By my unofficial count, I figure I've heard more renditions of our national anthem than most folks on the planet-save for maybe pro athletes and my fellow TVCommandos. Hey, it comes with the gig. Some people have long commutes, I get to hear bad national anthem singers. 

During one excruciatingly long version of the Star Spangled Banner recently, my mind began to wander. I started thinking about all the anthem highs and lows I've seen and heard over the years. Granted I'm no music critic, but after covering well over a thousand sporting events in my TV career, I think I qualify as an expert on Francis Scott Key's finest. 

I remember one low note when a singer forgot the words. The guy actually sang the second verse twice. Ouch! These days the Jumbotron at the Jake puts up the lyrics to aid the anthem singers.  Another time an Air Force flyover happened a few minutes too early and the anthem singer had to compete with four F-16's and their afterburners. Indeed the singer lost that sound battle, but hey, she kept on singing! 

As for anthem high notes, Whitney Houston's rousing rendition before the Miami Super Bowl was awesome to witness live. It's still the best version I've ever heard, period.  The funny thing is despite all the good and not so good performances, there exists a strange dichotomy for a TV crew covering a sporting event during anthem time. 

For us TVCommandos, it's kind of like trying to live in parallel universes. On one hand, there's a reality inside the stadium. As in, "Please stand and remove your caps." Simultaneously, there's another reality we hear our headsets. 

It's this duality that sometimes strikes me as humorous. Like when the folks in the truck are trying (sometimes desperately) to go on the air as the anthem begins. While people all around me are standing and paying their respects to old glory, in my ear, I'm hearing the equivalent of an air traffic controller and an auctioneer are having an argument! Talk about split personalities! 

The national anthem also provides plenty of humor for the TV crew with a little game we call, Name That Tune. No, not the title! The length! Although, we can usually tell in the first six notes whether any rendition of the anthem will finish in three minutes, or require timing with a sun dial. 

It's easy. If the singer, or singers, begins with an up tempo, "Oh-Oh, say can you see..." we'll be playing ball and making TV inside of three minutes, no worries. But, if those first six notes take longer than the musical equivalent of a political filibuster, our anthem experience will be more like those Snicker's candy bar commercials, "Gonna be here for awhile?" 

All joking aside, as I pondered my own strange and unique form of patriotism this week, it occurred to me I'm eternally grateful that only in the land of the free and home of the brave would a nutty job like mine even be possible. 

And while I may have heard the Star Spangled Banner a thousand times sung in a thousand different ways, that doesn't mean I'm not proud of what it stands for. 

TMac is one of those broadcast professional heroes who roam the sidelines of major sporting events so others in the world can see the action. If we're good, his columns will appear from time to time in this space. 

See Ya Next Time!

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