THE BUNKER - Now more than ever, I have found that it isn't editing, filming, nor interviewing that proves to be the most significant part of broadcast journalism. In actuality, it's a skill that everyone can master in their earliest years of life–talking to someone. Holding a casual conversation with another person can lead to some of the most important discoveries for a story. It was the last week of May when quick banter had disclosed information about a name, a location, and a canary yellow helicopter.
It all started at Maynard Jackson High School on a Thursday morning. It was bright and early as young men were dropped off by their parents, the large groups of high school students searching for the check-in desks that were located nearby the practice football fields. The month of May isn't typically the time for high school football, but this did not faze anyone "in the know" as satellite camps were being held by some of the top college football coaches in the nation. In this case, it was the University of Georgia's Kirby Smart and the University of Michigan's Jim Harbaugh who had trekked to the Atlanta Public School in order to shape young talent.
Smart had been the coach to arrive in a flagrant yellow helicopter, and FOX 5 wouldn't have been the wiser without a conversation held at the local high school at around 8:30 a.m. that morning. It was myself and FOX 5 sports reporter Justin Feld who had received the tip. The two of us lingered by the sidewalk that separated the parking lot from the vast patches of grass. I was perusing my phone while Feld was scoping out our video equipment on hand. Neither of us realized what we were about to hear, but that's the true beauty of hearing the early morning gossip. The smallest of things we hear can make the biggest impact.
Boy did it ever.
I remembered laughing when I heard the news, but Feld had the instinct to learn more about what we just heard. "Oh yeah, [Kirby] Smart is going to be landing here in his helicopter soon," the source said. That surely brightened up our mornings. We weren't exactly sure where the helicopter was going to land, so this led to about ten minutes of casually pacing near the front of the school when we started hearing the pitter-patter of the helicopter.
The chase was on.
Feld and I saw that the helicopter was heading towards the far side of the school, and with that, we started our early-morning sprint. With a backpack strapped to my right shoulder and a tripod dangling precariously in my arms, I remembered giggling as I followed Feld's lead towards the helicopter. Students stared at us as we sprinted by, wondering what the rush was all about. But the helicopter was important to us as it would make our footage unique, and so we continued to run past the perplexed crowds.
The actual landing of the helicopter went by all too quickly. There was a lot of hand shaking and pleasant introductions as Smart teetered out of the helicopter and met up with the Maynard Jackson principal. Except everything was caught on film. Thus the fleeting moment that occurred in front of just a few souls had exploded all over the Internet and on our television station.
That instance–the one that took maybe ten seconds in real life–had become such coveted material for competing stations. The Snapchat video I took of the landing earned me my nine seconds of fame as a multitude of people retweeted, liked, and commented on Smart's flashy entrance. The impromptu video I had taken from my handheld device was all of a sudden needed by other individuals–all because FOX 5 had something that they didn't.
It's amazing to see such a quick, small part of something become so engaging for others. A ten-second landing had become immortalized thanks to a 30-second conversation. At the end of the day, that conversation had made all the difference in the world–at least in college football.
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