Reporting the news, life
Fall and winter in Seattle has been a mixed bag of weather. Sure, everybody said “oh Jon, but the rain!” Well December was dry. Like, nearly as dry as Phoenix dry. The withered catcher’s mitt that is Las Vegas skin ain’t fun.
Going back out live more than I did in Vegas means I’m outside. A lot. Oh, but the things I get to see and experience. Amazing.
I’ve heard Seattle and the Northwest described as a “temperate rainforest.” Which is pretty cool when you think about it. All the outdoors goodness with abundant water, but without the yellow fever. Also means you can go outside and with a jacket, you are can be pretty comfy all the time. So this shot around Christmas was great. So nice to feel that crisp, watery air.
But back to explosions, drunks and yelling.
Had to get that picture. Just walking around after the ‘splosions of the Space Needle as 2011 became 2012 and I saw these guys. Yoink. Getting that pic.
But as it does too often enough, revelry turned into tragedy. I got the call to come in two hours early–around 1:30pm. I’d get home the next day at 5:30am.
Benjamin Colton Barnes shot and killed Park Ranger Margaret Anderson in the morning of the 1st. He was fleeing after being connected to an earlier shooting on New Year’s Eve. He plowed through the entry of the Mt. Rainier’s park entrance until he opened fire on Anderson deeper in the park.
We were stationed outside the entrance and it was a difficult day. Beyond the tragedy unfolding before us, it was nearly impossible to tell the news properly in this day and age.
In breaking news situations, typically law enforcement had the media sectioned off to the safe area nearby that allows us to get a backdrop of the scene.
As we hear tidbits and nuggets from police or sources, we work the phones and internet searches to dig up facts and background. When there is no cell service for phones or computers, you are sunk. The only way to get word out is through a satellite phone. Each live truck has them. But it’s the only link you have for info coming in or out. Usually reporters can work our phone while the truck operator calls into the satellite control to “dial in” literally to space.
We can’t talk to our assignment desk and dial in at the same time. We also couldn’t get emails. Nothing. We had to leave that sat phone alone a lot hoping that we’d get periodic updates on the game plan and any research our desk had found on Barnes.
Luckily, our team that night, Liz, Ben, Craig and Ted did amazing. Great group and we all became closer because of this.
After a few live shots in the afternoon, improved communication back with the station, a live shot for CNN, taped in and outs for ABC and our station in Portland, we got the 11pm done and waited for the next portion of the night.
Police figured that the heavily-armed Barnes had fled into the snowy woods and was waiting the night out.
But this whole time, over one hundred visitors were locked down for fear Barnes was still nearby. Those people were eventually brought down the mountain around 12:30am and sent to a fire station a bit farther down the hill.
We spoke with a few them, as they recovered from a long day knowing someone died so very close to their wintry holiday.
Not the way anyone wanted to start 2012. But part of life and days, nights and mornings like this hopefully show we media types aren’t boogeymen or leeches. We’re there right in the thick of it—as safe as we can be—hoping to bring people a view of their region.
Now, I promise the next post will have joy, smiles and merriment. I promise!
There’s putt-putt! And otters! And snow!