Anyone who’s spent time as a police reporter knows what this is all about – making the dreaded daily phone calls to dispatchers at remote police stations and sheriff’s departments to ask the same question: “Anything going on?” Second only to the scanner crackling away in the newsroom, it’s the lifeblood of any local news organization. The critical first steps in news gathering. And a lot of it relies on prying loose the info from the staffer at the other end of the phone line – typically a stressed out dispatcher who hardly wants to engage in a conversation with “the media” and – gasp – reveal any information.
But take a look at how Jason Mays (or @Jason_WCMH), left, uses Twitter to turn the chore of making beat calls into part entertainment, part breaking news each night. Through his tweets, anyone of his followers can learn first-hand what’s going on in Central Ohio – even before it becomes breaking news – as he spins through his Rolodex in the early evening hours dialing up the county Sheriff’s Departments and Highway Patrol offices throughout his TV station’s coverage area.
A self-described “scanner rat” who works the phones for NBC affiliate WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, Mays has created a loyal following for his nightly “Beat Calls” (maybe even the competition!). Here’s a sampling of some of his tweets from recent months, documenting calls placed as well as some he receives while on duty at the NBC 4 assignment desk. Some serious, some off-the-wall. All provide a glimpse into life in journalism’s front row seat:
Bank robbery just occured at 7450 Sawmill rd. Man with gun gave teller a note. Guess what? He got a dye pack. he he he. CPD looking for him.
FAIRFIELD CO – Working on absolutely nothing.
Multiple football injuries going to local hospitals tonight. I think I heard its the first day in pads for HS.
US 33 WB AND 104 EB CLOSED DUE TO MOTORCYCLE AX. POSS FATAL. MAN MAY HAVE FELL OFF OF BRIDGE DURING AX
REYNOLDSBURG PD – the ever personality-less courtesy extended to me once again.
FAIRFIELD CO – working a neighbor dispute of a neighbor that mooned the other
Now to jinx myself. The scanners are very quiet. Very little going on. A purse snatching, 1 DOA natural causes, a grill fire, that’s it.
LICKING CO – dealing with their resident daily crazy call. I have 2 people that call me every day and ask crazy questions.
UNION CO – I pressed ‘1’ for general information. Got it. I asked what’s up.. .she said… General stuff. Clever girl.
Got my weekly UFO call. Check.