As a reporter, I covered plenty of big stories. Now, as a newsroom manager, I help oversee how those stories are covered. Of course the big story this past week has been the wildfire which started out in Hyde County Sunday. I am very proud of the way our crews have covered this developing story.
We first heard there was a significant fire near Ponzer Monday morning. A quick call to Raleigh confirmed there was a 700 acre blaze in Hyde County. Not knowing how big the story might become, we immediately sent a reporter, photographer and our satellite truck that way. That night, WITN was first with the fire story and we’ve been staying on top of it ever since.
Covering this story hasn’t been easy. Not only is the actual fire more than an hour away, but communication with our crews has been extremely difficult. That’s because cell phone service in that part of Hyde County is very spotty. So bad, that the N.C. Forest Service had to bring in satellite phones for communications. On Thursday we had three reporters covering the fire, and one of those crews was “missing in action” for more than three hours. To a newsroom that’s an eternity, especially when you’re trying to pass along important information to the crew and vice versa. When the crew did finally get cell phone service and call in, the first thing they said was “We’re still alive!”. Then there was the bear. Reporter Trent Davis was doing a story on how the wildlife was being impacted by the huge fire. He literally drove up on a bear trying to get around a locked gate. Trent told me he was afraid to get out of the car, and I don't blame him. Lucky for Trent, his camera was within reach and you all saw the video that night at 11.
The fire is receiving some national attention. While WITN has been feeding video since Monday to other NBC stations in North Carolina, Thursday the Today Show used our material and by Friday several Raleigh stations and CNN realized there was a story there. The most humorous call came Friday morning from the NBC station in Richmond, VA. They were getting a lot of smoke in the area, and wanted to know if we had a fire down our way. I had to chuckle and say, "Yeah…just a little one".
WITN and witn.com will continue to cover this big story. If you have any suggestions or comments on our coverage, let me hear from you by posting a comment. Thanks!