My earliest recollection of my grandfather Jack Shea was of him sitting on a stool by the kitchen window with a cup of coffee, the Springfield Sun newspaper and a police scanner. He could tell you every time you heard sirens where they were going and why.
Fast forward to my first newspaper job, where we had a desktop scanner in the newsroom to know when to run to a fire, accident, hostage situation and any other event we referred to as spot news. I soon realized I needed a handheld scanner to make sure I was connected 24/7.
That was 33 years ago and I have gone through a dozen scanners as I wore them out or technology changed. I’ve learned a lot about covering news I heard on a police scanner.
Early on covering spot news, I would run on anything in hopes of covering news as soon as it happened. One such day, I learned not to be too eager.
There was a call of a possible structure fire at the old health department downtown, so I jumped in my news mobile (a four-door Chevette) and sped over. It turned out to be an HVAC issue and thankfully not a fire. As I was leaving, the scanner exploded with radio traffic of a group of suspects involved in breaking and entering at the BBQ shack right behind the Daily News.
The suspects broke into a house in the county, tied an elderly female to a chair at the kitchen table, assaulted her and then ransacked her house and fridge. They ate her food and stole her guns. The trio proceeded into town to the shack and pulled up to the drive-thru, where the waitress spied a bunch of guns in the back seat. She called the police about the armed men.
I raced to the scene with cameras in hand, rounded the corner of the building and found myself face to face with an army of officers – all with guns trained on me. Three suspects were up against the building being handcuffed, and I popped around the corner holding a black camera in my hand. After everyone took a breath, the media officer, Sgt. Pat Thomas, pulled me aside to chastise me and tell me how close I came to being shot.
After that incident, I learned how to photograph spot news with a longer lens and had better situational awareness as witnessed by the photo of the two police officers drawing on an armed robbery suspect years ago. I truly believe that visual reportage of the daily events in our hometown is just as important as the stories beside them.
Why do I and my colleagues at the Daily News cover news? Because we are charged as journalists to give our readers and the community the information they need to make better decisions about what we should be doing.
Newspapers remain the most credible source of local news and information. Our reporters routinely cover fiscal court, city commission, city and county school boards, politics, postsecondary education, local and regional business news, court news, little league baseball, high school sports, and no one brings you more Western Kentucky University athletics coverage than the Daily News.
When you hear sirens or see police, the fire department or EMS in your neighborhood, you should have someone you rely on to tell you what happened. You’ll find it in print in the Daily News, on our digital platform or our social media channels. You might even be one of the 64,000-plus followers who get their news from my @joeimel Twitter feed, which gets more than 3.9 million views a month. During the Dec. 11 tornadoes, it was viewed more than 2.2 million times that day, 6.9 million times that month.
My goal is to share what I hear on the police scanner, the important, the funny and the sad. Those events that our law enforcement and first responders deal with every day are the fabric that weaves our community together.
That feed only exists because I work at the Daily News and am a newshound. Just like my grandfather, I want to know what is happening in my community and I want to share it with you.
– Daily News General Manager Joe Imel can be reached at 270-783-3273 or via email at email@example.com.