I don't want to turn today's ramblings into a big get-down-on-the-media hoohah. And having spent most of last evening being lectured on the absolute impossibility of any gun control measure ever doing anything about the stunning amount of gun crimes and assaults in this country, I just don't want to open that can of worms again right now.
But for those of you outside the greater Baltimore area, we had a horrible thing happen on the first day of school here. Perry Hall High School, right near us, was the scene of a shooting incident in which, as the story goes, a young man was being hassled in the cafeteria and he snuck outside to where he had secreted a disassembled rifle, then snuck back inside and shot another student. A very brave guidance counselor then pinned the ALLEGED shooter against a vending machine and got him down until the school resource officer ran over and effected the arrest. The victim was flown to Shock Trauma in critical condition.
As you might expect, all hell broke loose around the high school. Students were dismissed, but not all of them. The public was told to meet their kids at the Perry Hall Square Shopping Center, and a couple of thousand kids started trooping up the street to the home of Dollar Tree and Asian Fusion, where it took about three minutes for the parking lot to fill with anxious parents. Eventually, the meeting place was changed to the middle school across the street, leading to hundreds of kids darting across the street playing dodge-'em with hundreds of cars and trucks. But eventually everyone met up with their rides.
Over in TV Land, this was one of those events where you get to see the news teams scramble, and that's not often pretty. The helicopters were up, showing cops swarming the school grounds and kids hauling @$$. And that's when something really bugged me. A certain news anchor, who has been on the air here for a long, long time, said something so thoroughly wrong that it made me yelp. And I'll not call his name here, because for all I know, some uninformed producer was whispering this false information in his ear, although I kind of doubt that.
Dude. Where to begin? There is but one Baltimore County Fire Department, and it comprises both career and volunteer units, both fire and EMS. Both types of companies are dispatched in order of closeness to events without regard to career or volunteer status. In a major event like this, involving thousands of people, it's only smart to have plenty of ambulances standing by. People tend to be injured running out of buildings, people suffer cardiac distress, and other perfectly valid reasons exist as well.
And I have no idea where he got this idea, but fire engines, ambulances and what-all else do not just listen to the fire radio and decide to ride on over to see what's going on. For a unit to respond to an incident without being dispatched is about as serious a breach of protocol as there could be.
So, my suggestion for all news anchors who find themselves having to extemporize and not rely on a teleprompter would be to know what they're talking about...or not talk.