TV journalists always seem to be in a rush, and as a result the story can suffer, especially bad when it's a story about suffering. Take yesterday for instance. A Facebook friend posts a graphic photo with the succinct caption: "We just lost our house and everything we owed, but we are alive, god is great!!!!"
So looking for more information I search Twitter for "Fire Belchertown" and pull up a tweet linking to CH 3 TV news that breathlessly reports: "CBS 3 was first on scene of a Belchertown house fire. The family has lost everything and are homeless. A firefighter was taken to the hospital. Details in the first five."
Wow! They were "first on scene"? Maybe TV news journalists should carry a fire extinguisher in their trunks. Of course what they meant to say was they were the first journalists on the scene. But even that was wrong as someone posted a comment saying Ch 3 had been scooped by Belchertown-news.com, a hyperlocal--and obviously nimble--news operation.
A few hours later Ch 3 edited the story slightly to say "first TV news station on the scene". But they still thought that such an important fact that it graced two paragraphs out of the story's total of three .
First off a (bricks and mortar) journalist is not supposed to become part of the story--ESPECIALLY THE LEAD. And second of all--equally important--a reporter is a human being first and a reporter second. Try showing some empathy rather than hubris about being "first".
If you come upon a homeless person starting to set himself on fire, put down the damn camera and put out the flames--don't wait until it escalates into a great photo opp.
Beside the death of a friend or loved one there's nothing more painful than watching everything you own destroyed in a marauding mixture of smoke, fire and water. A compelling story like that deserves to be told properly, rather than first.