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My Last Spot News assignment (more than likely)

Posted by on March 11, 2010 – 5:15 pm

By Darryl Webb

The scanners whispered “evacuation and we’re closing off the streets” and something about a fire, but I couldn’t quite make out what is, that’s when I turned it up. There’s nothing like good spot news to get a photojournalist’s blood pumping, and more than likely this was probably going to be my last one at the Tribune with my last day being Saturday. So I began to listen a little more intently, I heard it was in Chandler (our coverage zone) then I heard a tanker truck into a building, then I heard something about a helicopter, the voices coming from the scanner had a little panic in their inflection so I didn’t think it was drill, which has fooled me more than once. I started looking for one of police reporters, but none were around, so I told others in the newsroom, “I’m headed in that direction, please find out what’s going on.”

The foot gets a little heavier on the gas pedal going to breaking news, just a force of habit I guess, but not to sound morbid, it’s exhilarating to go to the unknown. On the way to Chandler I heard from the newsroom that it was at Stellar Airpark and that it was a plane into a hanger, so I knew exactly where I was going. In going to spot news assignments one thing I’ve learned as a photographer NEVER go to where the media staging area is, it’s usually far away from the scene, the staging area is where reporters go, so I headed basically opposite of where the reporters go. I weaved my way through the Airpark and found the entrance to the runway opened for emergency vehicles, so I parked on the street and walked in.

As a photojournalist I learned a longtime ago, never get blocked in by emergency vehicles — you could be there forever, they’re not moving just because of your stupidity — so I parked a way aways, and footed it in. Luckily I didn’t get stopped by anyone and walked to where residents were watching and wondering what happened, and I shot from there. I shot the plane buried into the building, but it needed scale, so I waited until there was a human element in this case a firefighter taking a closer look at the wreckage. I knew that was my image, but I stuck around awhile to see if anything else would happen, but it didn’t. So I head back to my car to transmit the image back to the newsroom. Spot news is something none of us likes to cover because it usually involves some sort of tragedy, but it’s our job and you, the general public, usually wants to know, hence us being there. If I don’t do it, someone else will be doing it and, well, frankly I like my job, the good, the bad and the ugly of it. But I will miss it, all of it.

A Chandler firefighter looks at the remains of a P-51 that crashed and burned into a airplane hanger at Stellar Park in Chandler.

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