Alone In the Dark: An MMJ’s Life Vs. Budgets

When should your safety be your priority over getting the latest scoop?

Increasingly in the news gathering industry we find more and more stories are being told by a lone field MMJ.  This in part is due to budget constraints and often imposed by media management, and also by technology which can all but eliminate the classic photog, truck uplink operator, and reporter on site scenario.

But what happens when the story has an element of risk to the person assigned to it?  By having a single MMJ on site you run the risk of safety being compromised.  Is it worth it to be first on the scene if you end up there in a bad situation with no available backup in case things go wrong?  

One such case involved a recent MMJ in Topeka, KS.  I read this recently and it sparked a bit of an outrage on my part.  I am originally from the state she was reporting from and found this to be a story worth bringing up for this very valid point.  You should never risk the safety of your staff just to get the story.

This MMJ was reporting on a story, alone.  She had her camera, she had her direct access back to the station, and she had Facebook live.  Those were all the safety measures she had in place, basically none.  Once her shot was finished a man began harassing her.  She went live on Facebook and her crew picked up that she was potentially in trouble.  So, they called the police.  Guess what, the police never came.  She ended up running to her vehicle and the man took chase.  She narrowly escaped.  She was lucky.  The police had no comment.  She was very upset that they had done nothing to assist her and yet these were the same people she worked with countless times.

This should be an example of why a buddy system should always remain in place when an MMJ is in the field.  At least have one other staff member present when going into crime scene reporting.  At least have another staff member present at night, or in sketchy areas, it should be a bare minimum requirement for all broadcasting.  Saving a few bucks on production costs is just not worth the safety of your staff, ever.

I had a similar experience just after my days in the Army while attending college on the G.I.Bill.  I was a late-night convenience store manager in the sketchiest part of town to earn extra cash.  At that time only one person was staffed overnights.  They felt I could handle myself alone, as I certainly did as well.  Well after the bar rush had died down one night a carload of people pulled up to the gas pump.  They got out, got gas, and then a few of them came into the store.  One of them grabbed a burrito and began heating it in the microwave.  He started saying he was not going to pay for it.  I assumed he was just kidding, he wasn’t.  He did not know I was actually fresh off of a 3-year tour as a crazy paratrooper.  He assumed he could show off in front of his friends and bully me into letting him have stuff for free.  When I confronted him on it he lifted up his shirt and showed me a gun in his beltline.

This gesture set-off a whirlwind of emotions for me, mostly anger.  I was not your typical store manager, and I did not follow company procedures that day at all.  Needless to say, they ended up paying for their food despite their threats and they left much more frightened then I ended up being, much to their surprise.  They promised to return, and I likewise promised the cops would be waiting when they did.

Now, I tell this story because it brings me back to the point of had there been more employees present that night the likelihood of this happening would have been greatly diminished.  Now that entire company not only has a minimum of two employees at any one time at each store location, they also have an on officer at each of their locations for overnights as well.  The employee’s safety became worth more to them than the marginal savings they would have by understaffing the situation.  I like to think that my altercation may have been the tipping point that they needed.  I was lucky too.  But what if I hadn’t been?

The news business needs to protect their employees over profits always, and anything less is unacceptable.  This MMJ was just one of the lucky ones on that day, but she might not have been.  You must plan for the worst.  When reporting the news, let’s try not to become the news.

Feel free to post your comments here or on my LinkedIn I would love to hear your feedback my Allmediahub.com friends.  Let’s all look out for each other!

Another Allmediahub.com exclusive……. Stay Safe Reporting

By Adam C. Guest

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