A "No Car Wrecks" Policy at your station?

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Man, I understand your enthusiasm, but I think you need to be a little more sensitive.

A lot of us have seen and/or been involved in some really serious stuff in the course of our jobs. I for one am not interested in reliving tales of death and destruction like it was some sort of badge of honour.
I do think bad car accidents should be a part of every news cast.
Driving is something that everybody does. Driving is inherently dangerous even if you are a very safe driver. I think that it is important to remind viewers to pay attention, even in big markets. Nothing does that better than showing what happens to somebody, everyday.

In 2001 42,116 died on the highways. 3000 died from terrorism. I have shot way more terrorism related stories since then!!! Showing a car ax is a public service.
(terrorism is a very important story, I am not trying to knock it)


Well-known member
Originally posted by Photog Cowboi:
What is the worst accident anyone has seen and how has it affected you?
I'll bite - for my own reasons...

It wasn't the worst accident I've responded to, or the first (though it was early in my 'career'). Still, it's one that's always stuck with me.

Three A.M. on a Wednesday. I was sleeping soundly when the telephone jumped up and slapped me. The cigarette-stained voice on the other end wanted me to 'roll on a bad 10-50', and I began the time-honored process without rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

The drive across town was uneventful, though my half-conscious mind did marvel at how all the angry stoplights flashed a friendly yellow. What was usually a congested boulevard was an empty strip and I made it to the scene in record time.

Early summer fog added to the dreamy feel of the night, and as I parked on the side of the road and grabbed my gear, I was probably still sleep-walking. Up ahead a lone state trooper's car idled by an accordioned Datsun B-210. Across the road, an eighteen-wheeler sat halfway in a ditch, it's silhouetted driver wiping his brow behind the wheel .

Suddenly, a tall figure in a smokey-the-bear hat stepped into my vision. I t took me a second to realize it was the state-trooper, one who either knew me , or at least pretended to.

"Hey boss-man! Ain't you got nothin' better to do?"

Though his face was hidden beneath his hat-brim, the voice was friendly, and he escorted me toward the wrecked car like the host of some late-night garden party.

"You must a been waitin' in the bushes ya got here so fast..."

I was only half-listening as I powered up my camera and flipped various switches. When I turned my sleepy attention back to the trooper, he was lifting his enormous flashlight, and motioning me up to the window of the crumpled car.

"Don't know if he didn't see the truck, or was just trying to get past it..."

With that, the man in the official hat switched on his flashlight, and ripped every shred of rest from my sleepy brain.

The flashlight's beam danced around the car's interior and my mind's eye took in every detail.
There was no gore, only a young driver slumped around the steering wheel in sudden eternity. He was dressed in a fast-food uniform, and the coffee he'd been sipping on the way to work was puddled up in the floorboard. Next to him on the seat, a worn case full of cassette tapes sat in silence. An air-freshener exactly like the one on my news unit hung from a cigarette lighter that had lit its last Marlboro.

I backed away from the car after only a few seconds, my mind now painfully awake and racing with grim scenarios. Trying not to expose my shock to the trooper, I played it cool and got a quick sound-bite. After a few cursory shots of the wreckage, I crawled into my news car and turned back toward home. But for once, I took my time, for rushing seemed to disrespect the newly dead. Though it was a straight, flat route back to the house, I held the steering wheel in a sweaty driver's-ed regulation grip.

I've seen alot of trauma since then, but the scene of that poor soul's final commute has always held a special place in my memory. It must have been the fast-food uniform, the spilled coffee and the air freshener that did it; inconsequential personal items that forced me to relate to the crash victim. Whatever did it, I learned an important lesson that sweltery summer morning: No matter how callous, how flippant, how tough we all pretend to be when covering sudden deaths, the people we point our cameras at are real, and not all that far removed from ourselves. It's something we should all remember, even when we want desperately to forget it.

I know I can't.

Anton Saur

Well-known member
I used to work in a very small market on the overnight shift. It being a big train town we would get our share of the drunks leaving the casinos and racing over the tracks...gotta beat the train. Of course, not all made it. Well, the police were so badly equiped that they had a rough time finding "pieces". After getting to know the men in blue who worked the same ungodly shift I did, we struck an agreement. They would give me sound and access, if I used the light on top of my camera to help them "look for things". We both agreed that I would not shoot video of these mangled parts...i didn't want to anyway. So I got my fair share of grime and gore in that small town. I left the biz for a year after doing that....it was, I feel a direct result of my venture into the "lost & found" of train accidents that made me re-evaluate my chosen profession. I went back to that station a year later, and it was a diffrent set of rules. Thank God. I still see some of the things we found...usually while I'm fully inebriated and try to sleep...or when things go bump in the night....but then I remember the other things in life too.


Active member
Originally posted by Dan Haggerty:
I am a young photog at a small market. I hate covering car wrecks.
Daniel Haggerty
Policy on crashes at one station here in Tampaallows this recall about the time I called the assignment editor about a serious " Trauma Alert ", multi vehicle ax. After I told him about it, he replied; " Is it a bus "?

My few cents worth, -dale

Terry E. Toller

Well-known member
A news director here in Sacramento once announced that the station would no longer report auto accidents, no matter what. That night, the elected county sheriff was on his way home in the county issued cop car when he hit the guard rail of a bridge. THE SHERIFF WAS DRUNK!!! Caused a traffic jam for a couple of hours for the clean up. He wasn't injured but he was the sheriff. the guy responsible for making sure the rest of us obey the laws.

I shot the scene and moved it to another station. The first news director called me all in a huff, "Why didn't you offer us that story?!" I reminded him of his new rule but he still got very angry with me.

[ May 28, 2004, 03:43 PM: Message edited by: Terry E. Toller ]

Deaf and Blind

Well-known member
As this is all getting a bit heavy a lighter moment...

young man graduated from University of Nebraska with a degree in journalism. His first assignment for the newspaper who hired him was to write a human interest story. Being from Nebraska, he went back to the country to do his research. He went to an old farmer's house way back in the hills, introduced himself to the farmer and proceeded to explain to him why he was there.

The young man asked, "Has anything ever happened around here that made you happy?"
The farmer thought for a minute and said, "Yep! One time
one of my neighbour's sheep got lost. We formed a posse and found it. We all screwed it and took it back home." "I can't print that!" the young man exclaimed.
"Can you think of anything else that happened that made you or a lot of other people happy?"
After another moment, the farmer said, "Yeah, one time my neighbour's daughter, a good looking girl, got lost. We formed a big posse that time and found her. After we all screwed her, we took her back home."

Again, the young man said "I can't print that either. Has anything
ever happened around here that made you sad?"

The old farmer dropped his head as if he were ashamed and after a few seconds looked up timidly at the young man and said, "I got lost once."

The Old Guy

Active member
My most vivid memory of a wreck is one in which five died. It happened almost 20 years ago but I can still see the faces.

I hate to be rude but in small markets accidents are news. It all depends what else is in the line-up that night.

It doesn't make much sense to me for a photographer to suggest a "no accident policy". Some are great stories and some are duds. You just do the best job you can with the assignment you've got. If you have issue with the assignment process then talk about that.

If you don't want to shoot accidents then you may be in the wrong job.


Well-known member
I have been shooting for a while, but Haggerty I am new too. I hate shooting car accidents. I had to shoot one tonight. I have been lucky so far. I get there late enough.

I agree they are useless and do not provide any information to viewers. Had to shoot one last weekend which was big for the area and had 4 fatalities. Had a guy come up to me while setting a LIVE shot, ask me why is this news. I said I don't know. I agreed with him. A whole package on this tragic event seemed pointless. (We did another the next day.)

Oh well, I may not like it, but I do my job and shoot the best video I can.

"Don't worry about being dealt a good hand just play the bad ones well; over and over again"


I too work in a small market, and I hate when the scanner goes off and its a car ax.

That being said.

Depending on the situation rollin' on a car ax could help the community/viewing area that sees it.

Case in point:

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, I hear a call over the scanner about a 2 car ax w/ejected passengers.

I roll out of the station and find the scene. (tangent) When I roll up on scene, I met the most accomodating state patrollman ever; he told me the best angle to get w/my pod.(/tangent)

Turns out the accident was on a gravel road that you couldn't see aroud the corner until you got to the intersection b/c of tall corn. Oh yeah, there wasn't a stop sign at the intersection. Imagine two cars going 50+ mph and crashing.

And so when the next day me and a reporter went live from the crash site I had no reservations telling a cousin of one of the victims that I was there to warn people about the dangers of that, and many other intersections. I told her that personally I did not want to roll up on anonther accident scene like the one I rolled up on earlier.

Frank McBride

Well-known member
Originally posted by NewsJunkie:
All I shoot is the crime beat so all my interaction is with police ,fire, parametics and other TV news stringers who also do the same type of work.
If you are not a stringer, and you are not a staff photographer, then what best describes what you are? (Job-wise, that is.)

I work in a Small market in Maine. I think the issue with a station having a "no car wreck" policy depends on what size of market you are in. In my market, we don't covere EVERY little ax that happens, but if someone is hurt, then we go. normally it's a VO possibly a sound byte if someone is available. the reason we cover more car wrecks than alot of the bigger markets (at least by the way is sounds) is because people want to know what's going on. When something happens on the roadway a majority of the community sees it. In L.A. (or any other big cities) for example, some guy hits a guardrail on the highway, goes off the road, gets a cut on his head and goes to the hospital. Bigger cities aren't going to jump on that because it happens almosy everyday. In smaller markets it happens les often so it stands out more. It seems like it all really depends on where you're at. "no car wreck" policy wouldn't work in small markets as well at it would in big markets.


Well-known member
I cover a lot of car accidents. Some are woth shooting. Most aren't. But as my desk guy says, "Could be the mayor, or a star athtlete."

So, I go with an open mind.

[ August 05, 2004, 01:39 AM: Message edited by: Newshutr ]
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