Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day + 22 Years

Here we go with another election day. We are planning extensive coverage of all of the important races and issues on the ballot. Election days are big deals in TV news. There is a lot of real-life drama waiting for the results and hearing from the winners and losers. The people we choose in these elections have authority to levy property taxes and then decide how local, state and federal government organizations should spend that money for the services they provide. It takes a lot of work, and it's a big job to get the information, make sure it's right and then pass it on. It's one of the reasons why many reporters decide on this business.
Election coverage is at best tiring and trying. At worst, it's exhausting and frustrating.
I remember election day, 1988 vividly. I started early...before six that morning for our regular Daybreak cut-ins back when KTAB was in the old building. I was finished with my morning shift and the preliminary election work about 3:00 in the afternoon. I was going to go home to rest and see my family before coming back up about 6:45 for the election coverage that evening. It was a presidential election. That year, it was between George Bush, the 41st President and Democrat Michael Dukakis. There were also a lot of important elections in Texas and across the Big Country.
My friend and co-worker Ned Austin came running out with a camera as I was getting in the car. He said there was a call on the scanner of a B-One Bomber with an in-flight emergency and he was going to see if he could get video of it. In-flight emergencies are not uncommon. It's usually a minor problem and they land just fine. But not this time. We saw the big, beautiful plane flying over with an obvious problem. A bright red flame trailed along under the wing at least twice the length of the big plane. Ned got the video that later proved to be important for the accident investigators.
The plane was still a relatively new weapons system, and some of the problems had not been fixed. This one had a problem with the fuel line...and the escaping jet fuel was burning.
The crew fought to keep control of the big plane and bring it back in. The pilot decided that wasn't possible...so he and the other officers aimed it to a remote area just Northwest of the city...away from all of the homes and businesses. The pilot ordered the co-pilot and the offensive and defensive systems officers to bail-out. Then he pointed the nose down and pulled his escape hatch. All four men got out safely. The big beautiful bomber crashed into the vacant field. It was destroyed, but there were no injuries and no other significant loss of property. His heroism prevented a possible bigger disaster.
The crash made a challenging day for news reporters a day that really makes us realize why we ever wanted to do TV news. When the day was over and we had given our reports of the crash and the election results, we felt like we had finished a marathon. Exhausted, elated, delighted and proud of the way we covered the news and especially thankful for the brave men who kept that big fuel-laden plane away from people and homes.
I hope the election is the biggest story of this day.


  1. I'd love to see that video! Is it possible to import it and place a link for us?

  2. We'll look, but it might be really hard to locate.