Why I became a news stringer

cam_1Your driving down the road, suddenly you hear a slew of sirens wailing in the background, you look in your review mirror and see the flashing red and blue lights of several emergency vehicles behind you racing to the scene of an emergency – you pullover and they race by you as fast as the road runner can trot after the big bad wolf in pursuit of his hungry fest.

Having no idea where the scene of the crime or the emergency is and you there was a way to know where, the scene and the chaos is taking place with firefighters fighting frantically to save a burning building from burning to the ground or saving someone trapped in a confined space rescue no one would ever attempt to dare, except for those bravely trained in such retrievals and more.

Dispatcher James Crockman, man’s Breaking News Network’s Newsdesk and Dispatch Center with various Police Scanner’s covering NYC.  Photo New York Times

Breaking News is all around us at any time of the day or night, 24/7/365 days a year – the action is virtually non-stop!

When news breaks, it’s up to the local news crews and freelance news stringers to bring the news to those who seek to stay abreast of the happenings in their community with their police, fire and emergency services agencies.

In the mid 1990’s, shortly after getting out of college from my Journalism degree studies, there was a fad of opportunity to keep abreast of what was happening locally and nationally at a time when Alphanumeric text pagers were widely available from pager carriers, who often carried the services of Incident Paging Notification Networks, who utilized their paging services to bring the most up to date breaking news stories from local Police, Fire and Ems Services agencies in their communities and across the country.

Incident Notification Network Services utilized a cadre of “dispatchers or stringers,” who were able to cover the story from their own newsdesk’s in their own offices or from those who dispatched incidents and jobs from home using their own computers, while listening to a bank of police scanners covering their local police & fire departments in their communities.

The set up became the hub for information to the roving news reporter and camera crews and freelance news stringers, who covered the breaking story day and night.

Popular online scanner listening site Broadcastify is one of the most popular online scanner listening services online.

Shortly getting out of college, I founded a small incident notification network and spot news agency called, Oregon Firepage, which once had a growing dispatchers and reporter along the I-5 corridor cities of Eugene/Springfield, Salem, Portland & Southern Oregon.

Throughout the years several dispatchers remained and left the agency. Today, OFP still strives with just a original faces who stayed behind with the network to monitor those communities OFP once covered with their own dispatcher. With new technology made readily available many news stringers and incident dispatchers can now monitor those one communities that held regional coverage by a dedicated dispatcher in those cities via the internet, utilizing such services as Broadcastify.com on their computers or a free smartphone scanner app on their smartphones called “Scanner Radio,” which is also connected to the Broadcastify site available from the Google Play Store.

One of my favorite memories while stringing over the years is when the former Maryland Fire Network (MFN) located in the Washington, D.C., area had a full-blown media newsroom and roving camera crew to report live from the scene whenever possible to their website as they paged their incidents over the systemwide pagers to their subscribers and media outlets on a daily basis.

With the recent explosion of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Periscope, incident notification networks have been able to move their fledging incident paging operations to smartphone and tablets capable of receiving such information via the internet.

Periscope has allowed media outlets show live coverage to anyone with a Twitter account to their followers from the scene of a major breaking news story. Oregon Firepage recently utilized Periscope into their capabilities and has yet to broadcast live from the scene of a breaking story – it’ll happen sooner or later.

Covering the news has a local stringer has brought me up close with some of the most tragic and interesting breaking stories through the years, as long as there is breaking news, I and several others will be there to cover the story!


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