When The Staged Seems Too Real

Escalon Times - - PERSPECTIVE - Marg Jack­son

The cal­en­dar says May!

There was a gen­eral feel­ing of dis­be­lief about that when we had our staff meet­ing to get pre­pared for this week’s papers – ob­vi­ously we talk about the date of the next is­sue and as a team, we were pretty much flab­ber­gasted that it is al­ready May.

Grad­u­a­tions will soon be upon us, fol­lowed by Me­mo­rial Day, then sum­mer va­ca­tion and the Fourth of July. It all goes by too fast.

My mind as I write this is just a tan­gle of thoughts, each one want­ing to be touched on.

Escalon re­cently had its Ev­ery 15 Min­utes pro­gram, as prom and grad­u­a­tion sea­son looms and though the out­line for each pro­duc­tion is the same, the play­ers are dif­fer­ent and there al­ways seems to be a new twist. The pro­gram, which fo­cuses on the dan­gers of drink­ing and driv­ing, is hosted ev­ery other year. Oak­dale does it as well; theirs will be in 2019. River­bank has had the pro­gram in the past, so all three of our com­mu­ni­ties have par­tic­i­pated in this multi-agency ef­fort.

This year, as I ap­proached the mock crash scene and ob­served the body of the ‘dead at the scene’ vic­tim in the road­way, my first thought was: She still has her flip flops on.

Strange, I know. But if she had truly been ejected from a ve­hi­cle dur­ing a crash she wouldn’t still have them on. The force of the ac­ci­dent would have caused her to lose at least one of those flip flops. I men­tioned that to some re­spon­ders (this was while the scene was be­ing set up, prior to class­mates ar­riv­ing to view the pro­gram) and they agreed about the flip flops but said she was wear­ing them when they did some ear­lier film­ing so she had to keep them on.

Of all the things to think of … ironic I would fo­cus on the flip flops when there was plenty of other car­nage (al­beit staged) strewn all around me.

In a nutshell, though, it ex­plains how we, as news peo­ple, can get through those un­com­fort­able as­sign­ments, cov­er­ing those ma­jor ac­ci­dents or dev­as­tat­ing fires. It’s much like the first re­spon­ders; you fo­cus on the job at hand. Granted, for the po­lice, fire and emer­gency per­son­nel it is about sav­ing lives and prop­erty. For me, it is chron­i­cling their ef­forts at the scene. So that’s what I fo­cus on; what they are do­ing, how they are help­ing. It’s al­most like tun­nel vi­sion; you don’t see the scene for what it is, you see only a small part.

It’s when you get back to the news­room and down­load the pho­tos and spend some time look­ing at them that you get a true sense of what you just wit­nessed. And even though Ev­ery 15 Min­utes is staged, that doesn’t make it any eas­ier to look at the pho­tos.

In the pro­gram, the videog­ra­phers record the ac­ci­dent scene and emer­gency re­sponse, then con­tinue with the af­ter­math, fol­low­ing the vic­tims to the hospi­tal and, in one case, the morgue. They cap­ture the par­ents as they ar­rive on the scene as well. The mom who was at the morgue with her hus­band to iden­tify their daugh­ter was over­whelmed with emo­tion – it was raw and, in that in­stance, it seemed all too real.

The first re­spon­ders do a brief panel dis­cus­sion with the in­volved stu­dents af­ter­ward as ev­ery­one works to process it. The kids are also kept sep­a­rated from par­ents, fam­ily and friends un­til the fol­low­ing day, af­ter the con­clu­sion of the pro­gram. It lends an air of au­then­tic­ity to it; all con­tact is cut off.

As more than one speaker noted dur­ing the assem­bly, these kids are our fu­ture. But we can’t wrap them in a co­coon and keep them safe. We can, how­ever, of­fer ad­vice and sug­ges­tions and hope that they take the mes­sage of Ev­ery 15 Min­utes to heart and watch out for each other.

We want to cover grad­u­a­tion with all our grad­u­ates there.

Marg Jack­son is ed­i­tor of The Escalon Times, The Oak­dale Leader and The River­bank News. She may be reached at mjack­son@oak­dale­leader.com or by call­ing 847-3021.

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