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Handling the media....

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  • number7vfd
    replied
    We have a local newspaper and recorded local news that runs 5 minutes every 30 minutes on the CNN channel. Both never gets the story right. For example, we responded to car accident were the driver lost control and slide around hitting the guide wire of a telephone pole. The rear of the car was up in the air about 6 feet. Several firefighters used fence post laying near by to stabilize the car to get the driver out. The reporter on scene was getting pictures, when an officer asked if he needed any info, he said that he had all he needed. The picture in the next days paper had a title "HOW DID THEY DO THAT" The picture showed the car sitting ontop of the fence post. No mention of the fire dept. working to get the driver out, only that this car lost control and landing on the fence post.
    Never has the paper of local tv got our fire dept. name right. The local tv crew stopped by during a training fire and filmed (the reason they stoped was that they thought it was an actual fire call). The next days news showed the firefighters pulling hose and putting the fire out. All our turnout gear has our name across the back and as the reporter was talking about the training we were doing, she called us by another fire dept.'s name. While clearly on the footage the dept. names was easily seen.
    As the others have said, get to know the fire dept.s, the firefighters. Go by during training with equipment. When a new fire truck is purchase, go and find out what type of calls it will respond to. Also, show the positive side of the fire dept. as much as possible. Firefighters may have to leave in the middle of the night to respond to calls or miss important family time to help someone in need. This is very rare to hear about. Most reporter don't understand the difference between paid and volunteer. Thanks for your interest and wiliness to learn about the fire dept.

    Leave a comment:


  • CaptainGonzo
    replied
    A case in point... media relations

    Today, my Department held it's first open house ever.

    I sent out press releases 2 weeks ago announcing the open house, what was going on, etc.

    We got a call from one of the local newspapers, who asked us to send another copy of the press release because they lost the first one!

    They did a small "blurb" in their Friday edition under Police and Fire News.

    Not one reporter came out to our open house...

    And it was a damn shame, too... as we had a lot of the people running for elected office in our City there, a great turnout of families who enjoyed visits with Sparky, got to see pump and aerial operations, got to see a car cut up, a chance to tour the District's Fire Safety House, kids getting rides in our GEM Electric car, have some freee pizza courtesy of Papa Ginos as well as have a chance to cover a kitchen fire that occured in a single family dwelling during the open house!

    I am willing to bet that Monday, the phone in my office will ring off the hook with the same organizations I sent press releases to calling me to ask how it went, if I have photos, etc.

    Being the trooper that I am..I will comply with their requests... getting positive PR late is better than no PR at all!

    Leave a comment:


  • cozmosis
    replied
    Phoenix has a "Certified Fire Journalist" program that seems pretty intensive. Looks like they give their media folks a good working knowledge of the fire service. And, if I'm not mistaken, folks who have completed the program have much greater privledges on the fire scene and increased access in other ways, too.

    http://phoenix.gov/FIRE/cfj.html

    Leave a comment:


  • E229Lt
    replied
    Learn when the firefighters can talk to you and when you will be referred to the Chief or PIO. In most areas the firefighters can comment on operations which resulted in a positive outcome. Rescues made by members can often be talked about at the lower levels.

    Incidents involving deaths, arson, crimes, labor disputes, regulations and similar department business and the like are not to be discussed with the press. These should always be given by designated spokes-people.

    You can get the story quickly and from many sources if you know the right questions to ask.

    As posted below "LINGO" is your friend. Proper use will endear you to the people who give out the interviews. If you relate their meaning correctly, you will always be given more time and attention.

    "firepics" post is right on the money. If I never read or hear "Cherrypicker" or "Oxygen Tanks" again, it'll be too soon.

    Leave a comment:


  • Rayr49
    replied
    Weruj1,

    I do not have a "canned" media class. We use parts of the FF-1 and other pertinent training programs. I can check with our State Wildland Fire to see if they have a canned program for their presentation.

    You might try the San Francisco FD. I see they just did a one day program for the City Council members including some time on the drill ground at their academy.

    We basically explain the terminology, fire behavior, personal protective equipment, tactics, safety and try to do a smoke house using the fog machine. The media gets to try it with full turnout gear. If possible we try to have them drag a charged line and rescue the "dummy".

    Our training by the media consists of a rep from the TV, radio and print media. You will learn where their priorities lie, and have a better understanding of how they operate. For example most broadcast media (Unless it's a major market such as NY, LA etc.) have only one or two people at the station after a certain hour. Some radio stations are fully automated with no one there at certain hours. The person(s) at the station may not have the authority or technical knowledge to make emergency broadcasts to alert the public of an need to leave an area. They will also give you tips on the interviews.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

    Leave a comment:


  • Weruj1
    replied
    Ray,
    Great post............I am thinking about maye trying to set up a media education class. What a great idea, also I have never heard of the news people doing one either. Also we cannot get copies of footage as well, which I dont really understand but so be it. Do you have more on the media education class ?

    Leave a comment:


  • Rayr49
    replied
    Do you know if any of the departments in you area have a "Media Education" program? This normally consists of a one day course on the terminology and operation of fire and EMS. It gives the reporter some insight into the way the emergency services operate and helps the reporter understand what is going on. Our State Wildland Fire staff also runs one on wildland operations. Media staff who have passed this course show up with the proper protective equipment for this type of incident and often are allowed into areas on the fire that the untrained media are not allowed.

    Do any of the media outlets in your area offer a training seminar for the PIOs of the emergency services? I have been to several and it has helped me to provide the type of info you need.

    Will your station provide a copy of the incident video, including raw footage, to the fire department if they request it? Only one of the four TV stations here will do so. We provide the blank tape. We use the video to critique our procedures during the incident. At times the video will also help in the investigation.

    If we seem vauge about specific causes, it is because we do not want to release wrong information. In most cases we do not know the cause immediately. We may not want to release the cause to the general public until the investigation is complete especially if there is a possibility of criminal charges. I don't want to tell you that a fire was caused by one thing and have the investigation find a different cause. My statements could wind up in court in where I have to explain why I said the fire was caused by "this" and the actual cause was "that'.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

    Leave a comment:


  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    NJ retreats to the edit room and screens the 15 minutes of SOT, finds a :14 SB...adds some file footage from the library, makes sure they mention the oxygen tanks that FF's wear....confuses the engine with a truck and finds some good nats of sirens...finds people saying "it's gonna blow"..... But alas...the spot is killed for a story about mosquito larvae.

    One comment. Remember...you need one another. The fire service needs the media's cooperation for good PR..and the media needs the fire service's cooperation to get the whole story. A little mutual respect goes a long way.

    Leave a comment:


  • captstanm1
    replied
    Welcome on board...

    As I eluded to in another thread...It is very important to "ask" questions and then print the correct response as given, not massaged to make it sound juicy. Quite often I see comments made by Fire Officers of PIOs taken out of text because they were changed to make them sound better. Changing a word here and there in what was actually said can make a difference in good press or a lynching!

    Also...when you go digging....be ready to recieve an answer that may not necessarily be what you are looking to hear. Then...either print it as said (again) or forget it and leave the story untold before you change it to make it "sell."

    Leave a comment:


  • cozmosis
    replied
    Re: Welcome

    Originally posted by tripperff
    You would think a structure fire that left 2 families homeless would find it's way into the paper, wouldn't you? Apparently the "fluff" pieces found in the paper over the next few days were more important.
    I can top that. My city had it's first fire fatality *ever* and the local weekly paper didn't cover it. They said that it was old news a week later. The metro daily paper covered. All of the major metro TV stations covered it. But the *local* paper? Nope.

    Our problem is that fluff seems to be the only thing the newspaper is interested. Last year, we had a Jeep Cherokee that ran through a wall and parked inside some woman's living room. We called the paper up and told them that we had a helluva photo for them. Did they show? Nope. But they love to come by and get "feel good" pictures of firefighters testing hose or cleaning trucks.

    Leave a comment:


  • NewsReporter
    replied
    Weruj1 - I think the "chicken-hawk" thing comes from news folks feeling "special" that they're allowed on scene. It is a privilege, but I think one some reporters let get to their heads. As far as asking the "silly questions" - I'm sorry, I do ask those - it's my job. I can imagine the one time I *don't* ask how the fire started, and the FD knows - that's the time I get canned. And, unfortunately, sometimes, we have to call for a location while crews are still en route. I haven't done that in a LOOOOONG time (you get better with scanners as time goes by), but, if you're in a "beginner market" - a small city - I'm sure that is a thorn in your side. We're fallible (as you're aware) - but know that a lot of us do our best. And, a lot of us are very thankful and respectful of your selflessness and dedication.

    tripperff - I hate the "fluff" too.

    dragonfyre - Thanks, I'll look into your ideas.

    Leave a comment:


  • Weruj1
    replied
    WOW....what a can o worms....

    well I have had the occasion to talk to the news, and I can echo alot of sentiment here when you feel like the news has "deceived " or "fleeced" you. Please dont take things out of context, nothing like giving a 10 second answer and then only showing 3 seconds of footage, with a little blurb that may or not make sense. Scenes, as also stated watch where you park at all times and listen when we tell you where to go or not go especially if we havent not gotten a perimeter set up yet. And for eveyone out there .........how about when you are an Officer talking to the news and they call you the spokesperson, without even mentioning your name.? Where I work fulltime as an EMS dispatcher, the print news people are horrible in scanner land, we will dispatch a call for a person shot or some other high profile call and they call here when crews are still enroute. DAMN annoying, and somedays we tell them that as they call on an unrecorded line. I wish the news would show the full interivew, or at least make it longer than 1 sentence, be factual about what got reported, and not treat anyone or thing like it is a scop,be respectful of our jobs and please dont act all chicken-hawkinsh, we will get to you when we can. In closing, I can relate with Gonzo about the silly questions about how did the fire start, or what caused the accident when in reality it is WAY to early to tell. How to make it better, our hometown local paper is great and we do fine with them but the big city people need to be around more and again not act so aloof when they are on a scene. Newsreporter, do you see a trend here ?> and I hope that you are not one of these type of people.

    Leave a comment:


  • dragonfyre
    replied
    The best thing you can do to learn the "lingo" and why we do what we do is to approach your local fire academy to see if they sponsor a "Media Day".

    This would be your chance to suit up and actually go into a burn building, see what it's like to depend you your training and instincts to find your way throught the smoke and heat while gaining 60 extra pounds of gear.

    You will also get to learn the proper terms for equipment, gear and apparatus. Hopefully you will also gain a new insight and respect for the fire service.

    If the fire academy doesn't offer one, make the suggestion.

    Good luck.

    Leave a comment:


  • tripperff
    replied
    Welcome

    It's nice to have someone from the media introduce themselves without "fishing for dirt". I can only reiterate what others have said, mainly get the facts straight and don't be afraid to ask questions. Our local paper regularly makes mistakes that a fifth grader wouldn't make, leaves out pertinent facts and misses news stories entirely (2 nicknames for this paper are "The Daily Disappointment" and "The Daily Wipe") Here are a couple examples: You would think a structure fire that left 2 families homeless would find it's way into the paper, wouldn't you? Apparently the "fluff" pieces found in the paper over the next few days were more important. Another more general and more frequent occurrence is leaving out FD's in reports about MVA's. "State Police reported a 2 car motor vehicle blah blah blah blah was transported by (commercial ambulance company) ambulance to XYZ Hospital. No mention of the firefighters who extricated the patient or made the scene safe for the ambulance personnel.

    Leave a comment:


  • NewsReporter
    replied
    Thanks all! You are a friendly group, and helpful to boot - much appreciated.

    ff7134 - I don't know if this is true everywhere, but we do "beat calls" at my station - so the overnighter calls the firehouse at about 5 am. He or she calls the fire dispatcher, though - not someone who's sleeping. This is a problem where you are?

    Leave a comment:

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