Sunday, April 01, 2018

When THE BIG STORY really is....

The daily San Diego newsletter I receive from my old newspaper buddies out there suggested the topic "My Big Story." 

It was assumed many of the 500 members of retirees and former editorial staffers had a favorite story - or photo - that really stood out in their mind.

I had a "big" one and sent this in:

I was assigned to cover what turned out to be a long, long search for a small 10-year-old boy missing for five days in a thickly-wooded mountainous area. He had wandered away from a church picnic.

Search and Rescue crews combed the area and helicopters roared overhead. Day and night the search went on.  I was at the police base camp, along with reporters from both San Diego papers (One owner, two competing papers). 

My official "hat" would be the morning San Diego Union totally - until all of its deadlines passed. Then I "switched hats" and became the Evening Tribune's on-scene photographer.

Photo Lab Chief Stan Griffin was a bit upset that I was out there so long but he didn't want me to miss the story while switching photographers before the story played out.

The boy was finally found, tired to exhaustion, hungry and covered with bug bites and bruises. 

When he was on a stretcher, being carried to an ambulance, a newly-arrived tv crew tried to jump in front of me and my camera.

I did what had to be done after five long anxious days and nights. 

The sturdy fiber case we carried slung over a shoulder held flashbulbs and spare 4x4 film packets. It was quite heavy.

When I swung it forward, it knocked the tv guys out of my way and  I captured a close-up of the tired but happy face of the rescued child. It made the front page of the Union.

I had another almost big story when Jacques Cousteau's son was knocked unconscious, yanked into the San Diego harbor and could have drowned.

He was experimenting with using a parachute and being reeled out to float high over a pod of whales for quiet aerial views far from the noisy towing boat.

Excited, I had called LIFE magazine, knowing it liked a celebrity-in-danger story. When they asked, "Did he die?" I answered that he was only knocked unconscious and was pulled quickly from the water by rescuers.

Oh, never mind then," said the editor at the magazine.

I guess I learned a valuable lesson in national magazines that day.

Despite the old tv news adage "If it bleeds, it leads, " there are degrees of severity, even for the son of a well-known aquatic figure.

I later did get a humorous full-page black and white photo in the magazine, but, as is said, that's another story.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for wandering back in the past with me today.

I do that a LOT on here.

Check back to see if I'm doing time-travel again.

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