When a news crew reports live from the field, they have plenty to think about. Radio reporters are listening intently in often noisy environments and must concentrate on hitting their cues during tightly-timed newscasts. Television reporters and photographers are set up in a location to best show the scene, have one ear occupied with the producer's cues and anchor's questions, and in the case of the photographer, have one eye hidden within the camera's eyepiece, reducing peripheral vision. While all are aware of their surroundings, their focus on the task can leave them vulnerable.
We've all seen instances where gate-crashing passers-by have disrupted live reports. Most recently, a post-game live report was visited by fans who appear to have had too much to drink:
In another case, a football fan may have deliberately interfered with a liveshot, or was simply oblivious:
Amusing, perhaps, and both reporters did their best to deal with the situation in the moment, but what happens if an angry onlooker wants to thwart a reporter's attempt to tell their story? A belligerent observer could easily thrust a hand into a camera lens, damage equipment or become physically abusive toward a crew. Equipment has been stolen from news vehicles while crews are live on the air and distracted with the task at hand. Reporters have been shouted down and had things thrown at them. And in extreme situations, cameras have been wrenched from photographers' hands, news vans have been toppled and reporters have been tackled on live television.
For many day-to-day live reports, interference from onlookers may not be an issue. But when assigning crews to report from unpredictable environments where they are surrounded by crowds, an extra layer of security can make a difference. One more pair of eyes is usually all that is needed to keep people from wandering on camera and to keep an eye open for trouble. If a crew is asked to stand in the middle of a crowd leaving a game, at a summer festival or in a bar on New Year's Eve, consider sending along one more person to help.
Perhaps assign a second reporter or photographer who can help gather news and then watch the crowd during the live report. If you know well in advance that there will be a large, rowdy crowd, hiring private security or an off-duty police officer for an hour is not terribly expensive. They don't need to be in uniform to be an effective deterrent. Sometimes in a smaller community, even an on-duty officer working crowd control can be convinced by the reporter to stand nearby for the duration of the live report. It doesn't hurt to ask.
Some large markets have already made it a habit to send security out with crews in bad neighborhoods, and more are considering it. Does your station provide any security for your crews in the field, particularly when they are likely to be in the midst of a crowd? Let us know in the comments below.
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