LocalNewser standupkid's dispatches from the frontlines of local news


New York’s Fox 5: Making Its Own Reporters and Photographers Sick

Probably Safer Outside the Truck

When I worked at WNYW, I got a quick lesson in how things worked:  the flash and wizbang was all on the screen, and definitely not out in the field.  The live trucks were patched together, given new paint, and driven constantly.  The result was a fleet of rigs that leaked, creaked, and occasionally, filled with gas fumes.

I remember writing emails to management, expressing concern that a few of the trucks might not be safe--having spent a morning shift sitting for hours on end inside a truck and feeling the need to get out and get fresh air, and going home with a headache.  I also remember never, ever getting a response to those emails.

So today it was no surprise to see Richard Huff's story in the New York Daily News about reporters and photogs at Fox 5 being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning:

Reporters Lisa Evers, Andrea Day, Nicole Johnson and Ti-Hua Chang all were treated in recent weeks for carbon-monoxide poisoning after working in the station's remote trucks for long periods of time.

"This is a serious situation," said an insider who requested anonymity. "There have been repeated incidents."

For example, sources said Evers became disoriented while on an assignment. After being seen by a doctor, Evers was told that if she had waited longer for treatment, she might have died.

It's the kind of story that on the one hand makes me very angry, and on the other, makes me worry.  All over the country, stations have been cutting costs--and presumably, in some places, cutting corners.  Maintenance?  That's one of those things you can imagine getting delayed.  New live trucks?  You know what they cost?  Patch 'er up and send 'er out, we've got a liveshot at noon.

I've certainly experienced some choice pieces of live truck technology at other stations, and fondly remember driving a legendarily lousy livetruck back to the station in Birmingham, Alabama years ago, only to find as I exited the highway that the brakes had failed.  I rolled right through a red light, miraculously managing not to kill myself or anyone else, and lived to tell the tale.   Funny how events like that never get the kind of urgent response you'd expect, but when you bring a livetruck back from a hurricane with broken windows and racks exposed to salt water, and the engineers fall all over themselves to glare at you.

Huff's story says Fox is installing new exhaust systems and new carbon monoxide detectors in the trucks.  I was tempted when I rode in those trucks to invest in a CO detector of my own (not that I'm saying I didn't trust the equipment).  The thing to remember is that the level of urgency around live trucks is directly related to whether or not the problem affects a truck's ability to go live.  If it does (flat tire, broken mast) it will be addressed quickly.  If it doesn't (CO leak, lack of brakes), well that's got a great chance of getting back-burnered.

Maybe the message is field crew, protect yourself.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (1)
  1. is that why you look like you’re going to puke in this pic?

  2. CO poisoning, or possibly lame story sickness. One or the other.

Leave a comment