I was reading a blog post recently from Jay Rosen about the press people belonging to the U.S. President’s Office who are there to give coverage if nobody else is present for some event. One or two of the more interesting snippets from someone that works on that team:
Well, there are two phrases that Iâ€™d like to pass along to your readers. They mean more or less the same thing. â€œBody watchâ€ means covering an event that will produce zero news on its own because you need to make sure the president doesnâ€™t collapse. The other is SSRO â€” â€œsuddenly shots rang outâ€ â€” which is basically equivalent, just a bit more dramatic.
When I emailed this to my friend, he asked whether we were responsible for the presidentâ€™s safety, so I assume that others will have the same question. What we are responsible for is making sure that, if he collapses, or is shot at, we are in a position to get that information to our viewers/listeners/readers.
Think about how much JFK, RFK, MLK, Wallace, Squeaky, and Hinckley have shaped the logistical reality of White House coverage. The history of journalism is littered with stories of reporters who called it a day a bit too early, like the guy from the New York Times (if memory serves) who decided to head back to NYC hours before Wallace was shot.
This kind of ties into some of the stuff that Jeff Jarvis has been on about lately and supporting Journalism at the source and building new newsrooms etc. He’s spot on that journalists should reference and link to their sources. Blogs work very well doing that. With this idea of citizen journalism which seems to scare the shit out of traditional journalists, I do wonder is there a niche though for people who are like voluntary emergency workers, needed in case of emergencies or times when nobody else is about. Sky and the BBC are kind of doing this with footage and pictures but I wonder could it be done for actual reporting too. It’d be interesting to see media outlets train people on how to report in case they are needed. This works with first aiders and hell Switzerland gives everyone a gun, why not train all citizens in the basics of reporting and build a nation of good communicators. Might make for an interesting knowledge economy.