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The guidelines provided below are courtesy of Graham Media.
This document aims to establish best practices intended to keep our crews safe in the field. These best practices are in addition to our current COVID protocols, which are still in effect. We have seen videos from all over the county of news crews attacked just because they are "the media." It's no secret that tensions are high, and in some cases, people are angry. They are divided. They've been stuck at home. Some are out of work. They are looking for attention, someone to blame, or someone on whom they can take out their anger. As we head into the election, things are only going to become tenser. We need to be proactive in keeping everyone aware, alert, and safe. Remember, the safety of our crews comes before any story or any piece of equipment. This cannot be overstated.
When we discuss crew safety, it's important to remember we aren't just talking about protests, riots, or political rallies. You may be standing on the sidewalk with a random business in the background, telling a positive community story, and to a mentally unstable person, you are still "the media." You may always be a target for them.
It is essential to remember to maintain Situational Awareness at all times, no matter what story you are covering.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware of people walking towards you while doing standups or live shots. Photographers, watch behind reporters; reporters, watch behind your photographers. Pay attention to someone who may be lingering around the truck.
Parking safety. When you park your vehicle, look around. Is there anyone watching you? If it's dark, is there good lighting? Do you have a quick way out of that parking area if you need to leave the site quickly?
Stay together. There will be situations where photographers are working alone, and there will be times when crews need to separate, but for the majority of the time, when you are out of the truck, you need to stick together. Never door-knock alone, always have a photographer with you, and always be rolling.
No weapons. A reminder that we have a "no weapons" policy in place at our station, which extends to our crews in the field.
De-escalate the situation.
Don't engage with instigators.
Use Nonthreatening Nonverbals.
Stay Calm, avoid overreacting.
Take the camera off your shoulder. You can still be rolling, but moving the camera down means it's less threatening to someone. It's not in their face. This has the added benefit of removing the blind spot from your right side.
If you feel it necessary to respond, be empathic, non-judgmental, and focus on their feelings.
Walk away, but don't turn your back.
10 Second Rule: Be Nimble. How quickly can you get in your truck and get away from a scene? Limit elaborate setups for live shots. If you set up multiple lights, you need to be prepared to leave them in an emergency. Keep your keys in the same pocket, so you immediately know where they are. If you are in a microwave truck, limit your mast height to only as high as you need. Get in the truck, lock the doors, and lower the mast from inside.
Turn the tally light off. Most of the time, the general public doesn't know if you are live, waiting to go live, or just recording. They will often see that red light and know that anything they do will be caught on-camera. Let's eliminate this visual cue until further notice. You can shut this off in the settings of your camera. If you don't know how to do that, please ask.
Frequent check-ins. If you're not on IFB, be sure to communicate with the assignment desk, so they know your location and can determine if/when you need to move. Up-to-date location information can help if the station needs to reach out to authorities on your behalf.
Worst case, ditch the gear. If someone is threatening you with physical harm and want your gear or vehicle, let them have it. Equipment is replaceable. You are not.
Potentially Hostile Situations (Protest, Riots, Political Rallies, Crime Scenes)
We have seen our fair share of hostile situations already this year. We would be naive to think there isn't a possibility of more to come surrounding the election. Thankfully, there are some things we've already learned which we can use moving forward. The most critical thing to remember in these situations is the video/story isn't worth your safety. When you are out covering big breaking news, your adrenaline will kick in, and your instinct will be to get the best shot. You'll want to be right up in the action because it's ingrained in you to capture the best moment. DO NOT PUT YOUR SELF IN DANGER. THE SHOT IS NOT WORTH IT.
As mentioned, Situational Awareness is as important as any newsgathering tool you have:
Station IDs. Everyone who works in the field should have a station ID. Do not wear the ID on a lanyard around your neck, but make sure you have it ready if you need it.
Stay Together. This is even more important in these situations. Don't take off on your own. Don't leave someone behind. Watch each other's back. Do NOT separate.
Read Police Cues. Have they put on their tactical gear? Are they beating on their shields? It's time for them to move in. WARNING: GET OUT OF THE WAY. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN BETWEEN PROTESTORS AND POLICE.
Have an Escape Plan. This goes back to situational awareness. If you need to get away, what is your plan? Where is the truck? Are there side streets to go down? Don't assume you are welcome heading towards police or protesters.
Use Your Cell Phone. One way to blend in and not stand out as media is to use your cell phone. Big cameras, mics, and mic flags can attract unwanted attention. If you are not required to be live, think about whether a situation may be safer to use your phone to gather video.
Click here for resources to help stations navigate covering dangerous situations.
Awareness in Reporting Toolkit
NAB and the NAB Leadership Foundation have worked closely with broadcast journalists, station managers, news industry leaders and journalism educators to create a toolkit with guidelines for reporting on sensitive matters of race and religion. Click the button below to access the Reporting on Race toolkit.