The dictionary lists three definitions for the word...Vulture.
1-Carrion eating Old World birds of the family Accipitridae.
2-Carrion eating New World birds of the family Cathartidae.
3-A person or thing that preys, especially greedily or unscrupulously.
I have never encountered the first two in my EMS career, but I regularly have to deal with the third. They are called...reporters. Now, some of my best friends are reporters. I was originally a communications major in college and several of my fellow students have done quite well in their journalistic pursuits. I am a firm believer in the first amendment and I think the United States has the strongest, most influential media in the world…but, sometimes them doing their job gets in the way of me doing mine.
I understand it must be difficult to get the good news stories and get them first. Reporters have to use all means necessary and be bold and fearless in pursuit of a scoop. This includes having scanners that pick up on all police, fire and ems dispatches, and ignoring things like yellow police tape and the sanctity of the back of an ambulance. I learned early on to lock the doors in the back as soon as I load a patient because I have had more than one eager Lois Lane hop in with microphone in hand before my partner could even get in the front of the truck to pull away.
Accuracy isn’t high on some reporters’ lists either. If the story isn’t juicy enough, it isn’t above some in the media’s scruples to add a little spice. Several years ago, I was dispatched to “one stabbed”. When I arrived, I found that the victim, who had made the 911 call, had greatly embellished his injury. His girlfriend had gotten mad and took a swipe at him with a knife. She barely nicked the skin above his eyebrow and when we arrived, it wasn’t even bleeding. Some soap and water and a band-aid was all that it required, but he was really pissed and insisted that he be taken to the hospital. So, we obliged him and said we’d be happy to give him a ride.
As we were exiting the residence, I was suddenly blinded by a camera light and a reporter stuck a microphone in my face shouting, “Can you tell us about the stabbing!? What is the extent of the victim’s injuries!?” Normally, I don’t talk to reporters. I don’t have time, and we have PR people that handle that sort of thing, but this guy was literally blocking my way. I couldn’t see anything because of the light in my eyes and I had a momentary lapse in judgment, so I looked directly into the camera, held up my fingers about a quarter inch apart and said, “He has an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny little cut on his forehead”. The chagrined reporter lowered his mic and said, “That’s not news …is it?” I replied, “Nope…no news here!”
Oh how I should have known better. The lead story on the 11 o’clock news was MAN STABBED ON THE WEST SIDE!!!!!!!!!! My audio had been edited out of the footage and I was seen miming weird hand gestures to the camera while the reporter described the terrible stabbing in voice over. I looked like an idiot and had to explain to my superiors why I was wasting time talking to the media when I had a priority stabbing patient.
I know I’m being a little hard on our information gathering friends, most of the time they are efficient and professional. If the truth be known, I have personal reasons for my vitriol against the media, and it involves my own sense of vanity. Our uniforms are intended for functionality, not fashion. They are of a material and design that tend to accentuate the negative aspects of the female form. I typically have to bend over to reach my patients, and the media is usually somewhere behind me when they are taking pictures. This has resulted in there being way too many images of my polyester clad ass floating around in cyberspace, and I have had people come up behind me and tell me they recognize me from a news story…before they even see my face.
So, the next time you watch the news, take the information with a grain of salt and please…don’t judge the emergency personnel by their photos. There are real people in front of those posteriors!