Mailbag: Dealing with sketchy assignments

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By: Mandy Mitchell

Question: (paraphrased) I am a female MMJ in a small market and I sometimes feel unsafe when I get sent out to get interviews at night in a bad area of town. I don’t want to say no all the time, but it makes me nervous. How do I tell my EP I don’t feel comfortable without looking lazy?

I am not a news reporter, so I asked some colleagues to answer this one for you. If you have a question like this, feel free to e-mail MandyTv@gmail.com and we will get you an answer.

Answer:

If she EVER feels unsafe, she should NOT be doing the interview.
No story is worth your life. And as an MMJ, no one is there to protect you (or even witness anything bad that happens to you).

Station managers should be willing to take steps to protect their people. If she’s doing a story that requires her to be in a bad neighborhood after dark, they should be able to at least have a station employee with her (on a case-by-case basis).

Jeff, Anchor, WZVN

 

Is there a way to get interviews without going into the neighborhood? A local pastor or a community leader? A city councilman or a county commissioner?

Another trick: it’s good to be competitive, but sometimes the competition is your friend. If competing stations are in the neighborhood – walk together to search for interviews. There’s safety in numbers.

There are assumed risks we take as journalists. But, for me, once police and other news outlets leave the scene in a sketchy neighborhood, I leave the scene… Especially after sunset.

I’d suggest asking your manager what the station’s policy is about leaving neighborhoods when you feel uncomfortable. A responsible company will support you leaving a scene as soon as you feel unsafe. If he or she tells you that’s the policy, I would then tell the manager you’ve been uncomfortable.

My managers tell me to leave “as soon as the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.” If you feel unsafe, go with your instincts.

Any respectable manager will value a safe work environment, and should offer solutions to make you more comfortable.

Kristin, reporter at FOX13 in Memphis

 

Your job is never worth your life. Period. On stories where you know you’re going to a bad neighborhood, ask if another MMJ or photog can go with you. If you feel threatened, bail. If your ND won’t back you find a new shop.

Drew Stewart, Retired TV news veteran

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