Parachutes

By: JIE JENNY ZOU | Published: October 30, 2012

There’s something about covering a breaking news scene on the ground that makes you feel as though you’ve awoken from a long and deep journalistic slumber.

In what appears–and sometimes is–to be a matter of minutes or days, you find yourself transplanted to a scene with little to no sense of bearing. You come to the scene with an idea in your head of what you might see, only to have reality drop down like an anvil from the sky.

The dynamic nature of this kind of coverage requires you to pull together as many tools as you can jam into your reporter’s toolbox. You walk away feeling as though you’ve really experienced something as opposed to just hearing or seeing it from afar.

Professional journalists I’ve spoken with can claim it as a badge of honor. The ability to adapt and constantly troubleshoot–the makings of a Swiss Army knife journalist.

Other journalists call this “parachuting in,” a sort of derogatory term used to refer to the nature of traveling foreign correspondents. It’s used to describe the superficiality of the situation, and in turn, the superficiality of the coverage. The term itself suggests a perfunctory kind of behavior. In one minute, out the next (presumably to another scene, another parachute).

Whether foreign or national, the idea of parachuting in is written into many forms of journalism itself. Sometimes you can follow up on a story later, or perhaps you’re working on a beat and so the stories you do are more interconnected than what you’d be doing on general assignments. But once things and beats get comfortable, it’s on to the next one. In one minute, out the next.