Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Reporting Is Hazardous Duty

Posted November 13, 2007 5:17 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2007 1:02 p.m. EST

Cops will tell you that it is always what they think is the most mundane call that turns violent – like serving a warrant or making a routine traffic stop.

Television reporting is the same way.  I learned that the hard way today after we were attacked by a broom-wielding man in Zebulon.

I cover crime, so going to a murder suspect's house or a murder victim's house is something I do on a weekly basis.  I've been called every name in the book and have been asked to leave someone's property on many occasions. I know the law. You don't have to ask me twice, I'm gone. 

It is not my favorite part of the job, but it is part of the job.  You would be amazed at how many times this effort pays off with an interview.  The ones that don't usually end peacefully – today being the exception.

Today should have been a routine visit to a home in Wake County where a murder took  place Saturday.  The suspect was set to appear in court today, so he was already in jail.  Our goal was to talk to his family about the situation, especially after we heard that he was apparently a good man who had never been in trouble with the law before – an unlikely murder suspect. 

On this particular visit, no one was home.  Per usual, I left my business card on the door, and we retreated to the road to take video of the house before we left.  As we were packing up the gear, the family returned.  I approached them in the driveway to explain why we were there.  In language I can't repeat, they demanded that we leave.  I politely and calmly told them we would leave immediately and apologized for the intrusion.  We pulled off the property across the street to regroup. 

In seconds, everything changed. The situation escalated from antagonistic to violent.   The young man who had asked us to leave ran inside and got a broomstick.  He unscrewed the broom-part end so that he had a stick with a metal end to use as a weapon.   He came out swinging it.  He took our tripod, which we had left on the side of the road, and put it in his carport.  He then came back and started throwing rocks at the car.  Then, he crossed the street and started beating our car with the stick.  

At this point, we were already  on the phone with 911 trying to tell them where we were.   The  man then came up to the passenger side of the car where I was sitting and started banging on it with the broom like he was trying to break it.  My photographer was finally able to put the car in gear (he had a large camera on his lap) and got out of there as fast as he could.

Deputies from the Wake County Sheriff's Office came and defused the situation.  They talked to the family and got our tripod back.  I was grateful for how professionally they handled it. 

But more importantly, I was grateful that the man didn't have a gun.  Not unlike cops, we as journalists get desensitized to the real dangers we  face on the job every day.  It takes just one bad moment for a situation to go from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds. 

You can never underestimate the potential for violence when someone is angry.  I know I sure won't ever again.

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.