Gear up! Breaking News! You’re going live

In the News Young Professionals
Heather Poltrock

Large police presence.

Raise your hand if you’ve uttered those words once or twice. I cannot think of a story harder to tell than the one where you have no information.

I’ll set the scene: Newsroom phone rings. It’s a tipster that says 12 squads are at such and such location. Guess what? You’re going, and you’re going live too.

So instead of saying ‘Take a look behind me’, “As you can see behind me”, “Now behind me” three times in 30 seconds, I’ll share how you can add a little beef to your no-info breaking news live reports.

Call dispatch. Ask them what police are responding to. And what time that call came in. Remember this is what was phoned in to dispatch and may not be the actual event, so you need to present it that way. Example: I’ve seen ‘shots fired’ turn out to be fireworks.

What do you see? Is DCI there? The bomb squad? Are they setting up a makeshift helipad?  Officers from other jurisdictions? Or are you too far away to tell? Then say that—“They won’t let us get any closer, but as we arrived we did see ….”

Is it freezing out? Sometimes the Red Cross will provide a warm spot and water for firefighters and officers if they plan to be at the scene for a while.

Give us a traffic update. Is a road closed off? Is a detour in place?

Is a school nearby? Are they on lockdown as a precaution?

The viewer will understand that the event has just happened or is still happening. It’s your job to explain how they are impacted at this very moment.

Heather Poltrock
WSAW-TV, Wausau