If I were to add items to an imaginary ultimate journalist’s kit, today I would add a bulletproof vest and a smoke mask.
It seems I find myself all the time on the job wishing I had the most random of objects to help me do my job.
A few other weird journalist necessities might be a pair of galoshes, umbrella hat and a can of mace.
Along, of course, with other tools I have personally found very helpful, including a camera/video camera, voice recorder, GPS, cell phone, police scanner app for your cell phone, old-fashioned paper maps, the journalist’s bible: The AP Style Book, plenty of notebooks and an endless supply of ink pens.
You never know what you may have to cover on any given day. It’s not practical to actually have all these items on you at all times, but it’s a good idea to have a least the basic ones on hand somewhere just in case.
So why in the world would I needed a bulletproof vest and smoke mask today?
To put it simply: to cover breaking news.
Overnight there was a shooting in Bardstown, a man shot and killed his son-in-law in his home. Police didn’t arrest the man because they applied the Castle Doctrine to the case which, in part, states that people have the right to protect themselves in their home. (I will be doing more research on the Castle Doctrine tomorrow as a followup story).
My editor asked me to go to the neighborhood that the shooting happened in and talk to some of the neighbors. He said something to the effect of “I think the shooting happened in house 104, so I wouldn’t knock on that door.”
I made sure to double check which number the house I should avoid was before I headed to the neighborhood.
I couldn’t help but wish though, that I had a bulletproof vest to wear in the neighborhood just in case since the man was still in his house.
Luckily, there was no sign of the man. His house looked like it was locked up pretty tight. And thankfully, his next-door neighbor was willing and ready to talk to me the second I rang his doorbell. He was already opening the door before I had even removed my hand.
Other neighbors I tried to find weren’t as easy to locate. I’m assuming most of them were at work at that time of day.
I got out of the neighborhood alive and thankfully the services of a bulletproof vest weren’t needed, but you never know.
Right before I was about to get off work today, there was a fire at a mobile home. This is the first fire call I’ve had to do in Bardstown. At the scene there was a ton of smoke pouring out of the building and as I was poised to take a picture a wind rolled in and blew a bunch of it in my direction. That smoke stinks and I still feel like I have some stuck in my throat. A smoke mask would have been handy. It would have looked absurd, but it would have helped.
When I got back to the office, my editor even noticed the smoke smell as he walked into the room. I stunk.
I worked with a man at The Times-Tribune who had a gadget for everything to help him do his job better. He was always so prepared. He froze a bottle of water every night and put it in a cooler in his car just in case he had to cover a wreck or something on a hot summer day. He also had an orange flashing light that he could put on the roof of his car to go to breaking news events. He was prepared for it all, right down to the pants he wore which where zip-aways so that they could transform from pants to shorts just in case he would be spending a lot of time in the sun.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be quite that prepared, but I think of him on days that I find myself wishing for objects like a bulletproof vest.
On a side note, I realized something recently that my readers might enjoy. All of the stories we post on our website as breaking news, and usually everything that’s posted on Facebook, because it’s breaking news, is free to all readers whether you are a subscriber or not. Conveniently, most of the things I cover, or at least a good portion of them, fall under the category or breaking news. So there is a good chance you can read some of the breaking news events I’m covering up here by visiting our website.