There was a time when journalists played the part of an “ambulance chaser;” ink-stained scoop-hunters would rush to see which building burned; what criminal was nabbed; what neighborhood was afflicted. With technology, newsrooms could selectively send reporters out depending on what seemed most newsworthy on the scanner. I have never been on such a beat where I had to be so on the spot for news. Much of public radio reporting’s strength is in its analysis, and ability to pull back from the news frenzy. Rushing to report is often how mistakes are made, yet time is often of the essence.
Even if I am not often covering the breaking news, I still follow it, even when I am on vacation. On a recent trip to Germany my troupe decided for a quick trip to Dresden, a lovely city in Germany’s East. We happened to arrive in early June just as storms were ripping through Central Europe. I turned on MDR, central German public television, in our hotel room before a planned walk to the River Elbe near the Altstadt (old town.) The Elbe was flooding then, but not as bad as other rivers. Dresden was affected, as were Leipzig and Passau, Prague, and many small villages between. Dresden was affected but not terribly, according to the news. We had just arrived, and a steady stream of emergency vehicles rushed outside our hotel window; a convoy of five German Red Cross vans sped back and forth.
There was only one thing for a vacationing reporter with family to do in such a situation: go for a walk and see what’s happening.