Metro editor Brian Kelley had a great reminder in our first Breaking News to the Maximus: Mobile Gladiator Workshop:
Don’t forget to keep a phone charger in your car. Some apps can drain your battery in no time.
So that got me thinking … what else should you keep in your car for possible spot-news situations?
I asked the entire Roanoke Times newsroom to send their ideas, and I wasn’t disappointed …. turned out to be a very engaging (and entertaining) way to tap into the wealth of knowledge among my peers.
Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find out which journalist among us drives a car nicknamed “battle wagon” (pictured above) … it’s kind of insane.
—- Pencils … pens don’t work well in rain or bitter cold (and you never know when the ink might run out). (Suggested by Duncan Adams, Matt Chittum, Kathy Lu)
—- Extra notebooks (Miranda Beck, Jeff Sturgeon, Courtney Cutright)
—- Extra pens (Miranda Beck, Jeff Sturgeon)
—- Emergency shoes / boots / clothes (Kathy Lu: “I used to always carry emergency clothes in the trunk (shoes that can get muddy; shirts I didn’t care about) in case I had to get messy. Of course, the problem is that these clothes eventually looked really outdated b/c they’d been there so long.) Miranda Beck carries pants, socks and hiking shoes.
—- Safety vest (From Cathy Benson: My kids gave me a yellow vest for Christmas that I wore for the first time at the school bus accident. They even wrote “Press” on it.)
—- Flashlight (Ellen Moseley)
—- Virginia map (Ellen Moseley: “GPS isn’t always going to work … we have roads up in Alleghany Co. that say, ‘not found,’).
—- Printout of the newsroom phone list (in case you don’t have it accessible on your phone .. ahem, gladiators! … or your cellphone dies). (Kathy Lu)
—- The LAW. A copy of the Virginia law that exempts news personnel from the physical restrictions of police lines and barricades. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+coh+15.2-1714+700656 and this, too: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers (Jeff Sturgeon)
—- Sunscreen ( Jeff Sturgeon)
—- Deodorant (“I’ve learned that lesson more than a few times, especially when it’s summertime and I have to get in and out of the car a bunch of times. People who don’t like reporters really don’t like smelly reporters,” writes Miranda Beck).
—- Binoculars (Jeff Sturgeon)
—- “A snack. Always a snack.” (Evelyn Rupert)
—- Bottles of water (Miranda Beck)
—- Toilet paper (for allergies, too) (Miranda Beck)
—- Voice recorder (Mike Shaw)
—- Point-and-shoot camera (Mike Shaw)
—- SD card (Miranda Beck)
But who is the most prepared?
Our very first Mobile Gladiator Award must go to New River Valley photo intern Daniel Lin, who drives a Chevy Malibu equipped for just about anything.
At the Collegiate Times, my car became known as the “battle-wagon” due to its perhaps over-the-top preparedness for breaking news.
A mental inventory of the basics is as follows:
• 2 police scanners, one left in the car as a base scanner, connected to an external antenna, the other is my portable.
• Car GPS, for obvious reasons.
• Handheld GPS, for when I leave the car in a totally unfamiliar area or a tromp in the woods becomes necessary.
• Rain jacket (hard to hold an umbrella when you’re taking photos and jotting notes)
• Rain pants (because in heavy rain, the water coming off the jacket has to go somewhere, and there’s this pesky thing called gravity)
• Rite-in-the-rain notebook and Fisher space pen (I keep my mileage on it, and also is idiot-proofing if I forget my primary notebook)
• My old voice recorder, w/extra batteries (more idiot-proofing)
• Trauma kit permanently attached to my backpack (added after December 8th at Tech when I realized that had things gone differently, I could have easily been in the line of fire)
• Basic first aid kit, for more normal cuts and scratches.
• 3 MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat). Working with the Tech Army ROTC has taught me how to tolerate shelf-stable rations. Indispensable when in the field longer than expected.
• Some granola bars and other “car snacks” for when an Army ration is overkill.
• Case of bottled water.
• Two highway vests with “PRESS” on them. I originally had one, but when I realized reporters sometimes hop in my car, it’s handy to have two.
• Hard hat (although I’m not sure why, just seems like a popular news vehicle item and I had one laying around)
• Power inverter for my cigarette outlets (and I have a car cord for my computer anyway)
• A basic change of clothes, a jacket, and two extra pairs of socks. I’ll often leave my boots in the trunk as well in case trekking through the woods becomes required.
• A phone charger (usually for other people’s phones, my dumbphone has a 4-day functional battery life)
• Extra flashlight w/ extra batteries (500 lumens, can throw a beam about 125m)
• Bank of AA and AAA batteries.
• I keep my camera beltpack in my trunk, just in case I feel it’s necessary to move my stuff into in from my day-to-day bag.
• In the winter, a winter weather kit with blankets, more food, etc. Because I might get sent out to cover bad weather, I could very easily become stuck in it too. Also not a bad thing to have in general
• Basic car kit with jumper cables, tow ropes, some extra oil, rags, etc.
• $100 cash in $5 bills stashed away. You never know when you might need it.
I think that should just about cover most everything. I do what I can to pack my car for two, because inevitably for breaking news I’m going to end up hauling a reporter around as well.
Tom Carter, a longtime copy editor, was reminded of Richard Harding Davis’ “A War Correspondent’s Kit,” which you can find here: