Friday, July 24, 2009

Tube Talk: Reporter James Ford leads with his heart, leaping into fray to help out cops

by Richard Huff

James Ford found himself yesterday in the unenviable moment that faces every journalist at some point.

In a heartbeat, the WPIX/ Ch.11 correspondent needed to decide between being a reporter and lending a hand to those he was covering.

He helped out.

After watching police officers and EMTs struggling to get a stretcher carrying a wounded officer into an ambulance, Ford - at the urging of, and along with, Ch. 11 cameraman Jon Fine - helped lift the guy in.

"Yes, there was a moment of hesitation," Ford admitted. "There are five, maybe six, big muscular cops trying to save the life of their comrade. They are more than capable. It was just in the heat of the moment, they couldn't get this guy in the ambulance."

It was Fine, an NYPD staffer turned IBEW Local 1212 member and WPIX cameraman, who quickly got Ford to help.

"I consider myself a reporter, and I try to be an objective observer," Ford said. "Jon Fine cut that in 20 seconds. He said, 'James, we've got to help out.' "

Ford, Fine and truck operator Christian Taussig started the morning at the Cheesequake rest area on the Garden State Parkway when assignment editor Adam Welikson called with word of a cop shot.

By the time they got to Jersey City, they knew there were more injuries and a standoff.

"I've been doing this for a while now," Ford said. "This was high-intensity. It's all happening around us. Bam. Bam. Bam."

Ford said he was surprised at how much activity they witnessed and how big the police response was to the incident.

In addition to helping the officer on the stretcher, they watched, and captured on tape, law enforcement and Jersey City Medical Center EMTs and paramedics carry more injured folks to the hospital.

Hours later, Ford said he had no regrets over crossing the journalist/participant line: "I saw that guy, and saw him bleeding from his face and his mouth, and thought, 'Wow, this is serious. This is really, really serious.'

"If it helped ... I have no idea. But there's no regret."

Random observations

* WNYW/Ch. 5 staffers were surprised yesterday when Dennis Swanson, president of Fox station operations, showed up unexpectedly at their morning news meeting to deliver a critical, occasionally brutal, appraisal of how the news operation has been working lately. He talked about the station, "Good Day New York," news in general, and how everyone should want to be No. 1. Swanson's appearance came after a poor performance by Ch. 5 amid the Jersey City shootings. His comments were seen by some as a kick in the pants and by others as uplifting.

* WCBS/Ch. 2 and Ch. 11 start sharing a helicopter tomorrow.
It's the second partnership between stations here to share chopper services as a way to cut the cost of covering news. Previously, Ch. 5 and WNBC/Ch. 4 made a copter-sharing agreement. Each station will save an estimated $500,000 a year.

* Emily Frances didn't get her mouth washed out with soap after swearing twice on Ch. 11's "PIX Morning News" - but she did get some time alone to think about the mistake. Frances got a two-day suspension from the station as a penalty for having a potty mouth.

That's some deep doo-doo.

* Meteorologist Craig Allen did double TV duty Wednesday night, delivering a forecast on WNYW/Ch. 5 at 10 p.m. and then at 11 p.m. for sister station WWOR/Ch. 9.

A spokeswoman said Allen was pressed into service after Ch. 9 weathercaster Audrey Puente got sick at 9:45 p.m.

"We have a plan that worked successfully to step up and deliver the weather," she said.

As for Allen, the extra work at night followed his usual daytime work at WCBS-AM (880).

If he keeps it up at this pace, he'll soon be checking with Tour de France riders for "pick-me-up" tips.

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