Friday, May 25, 2018

Saving yourself time in the newsroom and on fire ground

One of the common factors in journalism and firefighting is learning how to do things to save oneself time.

One of my late editors taught us how to create a skeleton of our Election Day stories to save us time when the results are announced hours after the polls close. He called it a bulldog, a term used in one of his prior newsrooms that stuck. I had my bulldog ready for my supervisors’ race with only needing to add the name of the winner, who they defeated and how many votes each candidate received.

Firefighters have different ways of storing their gear in their lockers to allow them to quickly get dressed and pack up on the apparatus if needed. My company recently took a training class and we were reminded to find ways to adjust our helmets to put on our face pieces in a way that could save us 30 seconds, such time that is important and will count on the fire ground. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Firefighters assist a student putting on protective gear during a fire prevention event. 
We have to save that time in the newsroom too because whatever information you have by deadline is what goes to print. I knew how to save time when the election deadline approached and the results remained fairly close. I made one headline and lead to reflect that the incumbent held off his challenger and secured his fourth-term. This bulldog had his background information above his opponents. I created another headline and lead about the challenger ousting a longtime supervisor. With either story ready for print, I yelled over to my editor to tell him.

Communication is important in the newsroom and on the fire ground, as much as it is in any environment. We provide each other with updates, including any changes or discoveries and we ensure that accurate information is disseminated in the newspaper article or during an emergency incident.

The Primary Election was one of my first experiences as a reporter adapting to a changing situation. When I talked to a few firefighters about our process in the newsroom, they told me how it’s beneficial to be flexible, make changes and be happy with the outcome of the story. One added that those were good qualities of a firefighter because conditions change and sometimes that calls for your tactics to alter too. He explained that sometimes you have to change your approach because one way might not be working and you have to try a different strategy. I’ve noticed that with interviews as well because I have changed my line of questions or adjusted my approach to get a shy or humble person to talk more, for example. Firefighters often preach that you have to keep thinking and be aware of other options in case one way isn’t working.

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