October 6th, 2011 Heather Kovar
If you know me, you’ve probably heard me complain about how women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets. No inside jacket pocket, and usually no skirt or pant pockets.
Response is always “but women get to carry a purse.”
That inspires an image of a woman on assignment chasing after a subject, purse flapping on her back. If she happens to get them, are they really going to stand around as she digs through the purse for a pen?
Enough of my rant. But it did make me laugh when one of the panelists from the opening session of The New York Press Club Foundation 19th Conference on Journalism said: “have LOTS of pockets!”
The discussion was PARACHUTING IN: LESSONS IN COVERING A CRISIS WHEN IT’S NOT IN YOUR BACK YARD.”
The pocket comment did come when speaking on what to bring or wear when going to a foreign country or being embedded in a war zone, but I still want a pocket even if I’m covering a local fire or sales of a lemonade stand.
Other than pockets, panelist Charles Hanley spoke on what reporters should have with them when “parachuting into a story.”
It was the correspondent’s first day of retirement from the Associated Press. According to the Press Club’s itinerary, Hanley reported from some 100 countries over the past 30 years winning numerous awards.
Some of Hanley’s suggestions:
SMALL BINOCULARS. He says in 1982 he was stuck in Beirut and no one could see what was going on- the action was too far away.
SMALL LIGHT. To read when waiting around in the dark.
IDIOT CAMERA and CABLES. For use when the photographer isn’t around.
GOOD MAP. And he says don’t depend on getting a map once you arrive.
And of course LOTS OF POCKETS- but he says leave military style garb behind. He also suggests learning the translation for “journalist” so a road block doesn’t think you are a spy.
He also reminds us not to put notes in checked baggage.
Hanley opened his portion of the panel discussion by reading from a list by famous war correspondent
Richard Harding Davis, who covered the Spanish-American war of 1898.
Extra pair of Gators.
Folding Bathtub. Water.
Grey shorts- they show the least dust.
Extra pair of old comfy shoes.
A housewife. (sewing kit)
Books, cards and a REVOLVER with 6 cartridges.
You can see from the partial lists how times have changed. Hanley says while new equipment makes it easier to file stories, editors know that- and expect more and more– more quickly.
Another panelist, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, gave advice on arriving at the scene and being able to tell the story within 40 minutes.
RUN MY MOUTH: He says he talks and talks. To the photographer. To everyone around. He talks about what the story is, constantly refining, staying focused.
BUMPER STICKER FORM: He says define the story in a few words. Then work to hang meat on the bones of your statement.
HUMAN ELEMENT. Tell the story through the eyes of someone affected.
The third panelist, CNN’s Mary Snow, said one key is to make friends with locals and build contacts immediately. She admitted she hadn’t been overseas like the other panelists, but she says the advice works anywhere.
Axelrod also spoke on “Fixers.” How they are locals who crews rely on to find subjects, get supplies, or even sometimes keep them alive. He told a story of how one producer likes a bathtub of Heineken- and works well that way– explaining how a good Fixer could fill that tub with beer even in a country where alcohol is prohibited.
As for my pockets- I guess instead of a Fixer, I just need a Tailor.