The contentious 2022 midterm elections are not quite finished—next week’s runoff in the race for the Georgia Senate seat pits Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock against Republican Herschel Walker—but following a grueling campaign season, the American people went out and cast…
Newsroom Culture ‘Needs to Evolve’ After Another Reporter is Hit by Car
The job of a news broadcaster is to report the news, not make it. But that was exactly the case recently when a local TV reporter from WSAZ in Charleston, West Virginia, was struck by a vehicle while reporting live from the scene of a car accident. Tori Yorgey was reportedly not badly hurt—she did get back up and continue her report—but the incident is drawing the ire of broadcast professionals worldwide, who say industry economics should not preclude safely dispatching crews for live hits.
Yorgey was reporting on her own as a multi-media journalist (MMJ). While this arrangement is far from unique due to cost savings, news professionals say best practices would dictate an actual camera operator, who could serve as an extra set of eyes to keep both members of the crew safe. The incident involving Yorgey was the second in the past few months involving a reporter hit by a car while videotaping a standup report. It also happened to Newhouse grad Lilia Wood ’20 while reporting for her station in Buffalo. Newhouse Broadcast and Digital Journalism Professor Shelvia Dancy, once a television news reporter herself, says things need to change to help keep reporters safe.
01You mention how the job is getting more dangerous for local TV news reporters. How so?
Getting interviews, shooting video and facing a hostile public is difficult enough when working alone as a journalist; journalists have to worry about their physical safety too, as the WSAZ video underscores. Sending reporters to work alone to shoot video, interview people and set up live shots (without the help of a photographer) poses challenges that literally can put a reporter’s life in danger.
02The traditional model of local news dictates a two-person crew (photojournalist and reporter). Why would this be safer?
A two-person team brings a second set of eyes to any situation. When a reporter is broadcasting live from a scene, there’s the benefit of two people figuring out the safest place from which to report and the best way to report live safely. There’s also the benefit of a photographer keeping an eye on the scene while the reporter is looking at the camera—especially important when a reporter is covering a potentially volatile situation/event.
A two-person team pays off in other ways; sending two people to knock on doors for interviews is a safer (often quicker!) option to sending the reporter alone. Especially in today’s climate, when so many people are quite comfortable being unkind, aggressive and hostile to journalists.
03You metioned that this is as much about economics as it is the culture of a newsroom. How so?
Newsroom culture needs to evolve to prioritize employee safety as much as good content for the next newscast. Shrinking newsroom budgets often eliminate the two-person reporting team, but stations need to prioritize the value of keeping those teams over any savings from elimination.