5 Crucial Things To Do While
Covering Local Protests
5 Crucial Things
To Do While Covering
Covering protests can be dangerous for a number of reasons…
…but those working in the field can take a couple of steps to improve personal safety in the midst of chaos.
1. Work in teams
Though most of the larger scale protests are taking place in larger cities, where there are better-staffed newsrooms, journalists in small towns should be prepared for local protests too.
If that time comes, insist that you cover this event with at least one colleague, do not go out alone. Protests and riots are highly emotional events that can lead reasonable people to act irrationally, and you do not want to be caught off guard or alone.
2. Dress appropriately
Just as those of us who work in fire or flood zones have a go-bag of clothes and shoes for that coverage, be sure you have appropriate clothing for a protest ready and waiting.
That means clothing that covers your arms and legs to protect against shrapnel from objects being thrown and shattered, as well as substances sprayed around you.
Close-toed shoes are also important when it comes to protecting your feet against broken glass on the ground, as well as avoiding having your toes crushed under the foot of a protestor who gets too close. High heels are not recommended, as you may need to move out of an area quickly.
3. Know your surroundings
Scan the scene around you before going live or capturing any kind of social media video.
The area with the opportunity for the best video may not be the safest place to capture that footage. Remember: If you get injured, or your gear is compromised, there is no way to capture the moment anyway.
Safety comes first, so find a place that allows you to share that inside look with your viewers while remaining vigilant and making smart choices.
4. Communicate with your newsroom
If your news director wants a live shot in five minutes, but there’s a developing situation that may threaten your safety, communicate that to your news director immediately and move out of that area.
A late live-shot is better than being injured while holding out for the planned hit time. If the scene is altogether too dangerous, let your news director know how you’re feeling. Then offer a backup scene that is safer, yet still provides visual information.
5. Follow police orders, and be professional
Regardless of your past experience with your local police department, or the relationship you think you have with them, be cognizant that this is a very contentious situation and adrenaline is running high.
Police are on the defensive, and may not offer the grace you’re expecting when it comes to standing behind designated lines and avoiding off-limit areas. The local police force may also be enhanced with the National Guard, or officers from other jurisdictions, who may not know you or your station and have no reason to make compromises.
Be safe out there, and keep up the important coverage. You are reporting history, and the work you do in the field makes a difference in what people at home know and how we as a nation move forward during these difficult times.