So, how is it done?
Here’s my entirely fictional sequence of events:
“Oh my gosh, that plane is going to crash!”
I pull out my digital camera and start snapping pictures. The crash is some distance away, so I am not in danger of being inured by the downed airliner, nor am I in a position to offer immediate assistance to those who are involved.
I call 911 and tell the operator that I just saw an airliner crash in XYZ neighborhood. I am unable to give a clear address because my view doesn’t permit me to see exactly where the ruins are. Really, would this be an issue, anyway? Would the 911 operator ask me to describe what I saw? I would imagine that the call center would be inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of calls describing the same plane crash. It seems like that would be a poor use of time, since, even with a plane crash, the normal calls to a big-city 911 center would continue.
What if I’m not in the city? I actually live in a small town (pop ~5000). Planes travelling between Austin and Houston regularly pass high overhead. We don’t get many high-casualty disasters here, though we do practice for a school bus crash.
So, now the authorities are alerted. I call my attorney. Oops, he was on the downed flight. I call another attorney. He says that he doesn’t deal in media issues and to call so-and-so. It’s Saturday night, anyway. Lots of lawyers at work at this hour.
So, I call the local CBS affiliate (because I like their news program better than the other Austin channels). I tell them that I have pictures of the plane as it’s crashing. They’re great, too, with flames flying from the engines and a great picture of the tail falling off. Would they like to run the pictures on their newscast?
So, now what? Would the TV station take the pictures? Do they offer me compensation? Naturally, I would want to save the pictures to my own computer before giving up the data card. Since they’re digital, would original vs. copy really be an issue. I could even email them to the TV reporter. How do I make sure they’ll properly credit me (and my bank account).
It’s not that I would want to make a fortune off of others’ tragedy, but wouldn’t the TV station or network be making bucks off of my wonderful pictures? If so, I should get a piece of it.
When does the FAA knock on my door? Am I in trouble for not calling them? I assume they’ll want my eye-witness description of what I saw happen. Do they just get the pictures from the TV station?