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Published April 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

McFeely: News helicopters are never a good sign

The Red River’s second crest has come and gone, cleanup talk dominates Fargo-Moorhead, and media outlets are falling all over themselves to promote post-flood celebrations. All sure signs our lives – at least here in town – have taken a giant leap toward something resembling routine.

By: Mike McFeely, INFORUM

The Red River’s second crest has come and gone, cleanup talk dominates Fargo-Moorhead, and media outlets are falling all over themselves to promote post-flood celebrations. All sure signs our lives – at least here in town – have taken a giant leap toward something resembling routine.

That makes this an agreeable time to make the following observation:

I never want to see another news helicopter above our cities again.

News helicopters are never a good sign. They mean bad things are happening to your town. They mean you’re the ones folks in Minneapolis, Chicago, Louisville and Abilene are watching on TV and thinking, “Those poor people.”

It’s not fun being on the receiving end of “those poor people.”

It’s nothing personal. This is not a rant against The Nosy Media Always Looking for Negative News. It’s not a tirade against the hardworking journalists and pilots inside the choppers. I’m a journalist, and sometimes a hardworking one. They were doing their jobs. I understand and appreciate that.

Heck, I was one of those people, notepad and pen in hand, knocking on doors of flooded-out homes, hoping the owner would share a story or two. The same idea could be applied accurately to the ink-stained wretch business: It’s never a good sign when a newspaper reporter knocks on your front door.

But of all the snapshots, scenes, observations and ruminations I’ve logged over the past month in the incredible flood fight of 2009, the one that stands out is seeing the news choppers from the Twin Cities buzzing over our towns, hovering here and there to get footage.

That might be odd, considering all the symbols of disaster we’ve been living with since mid-March. Sandbags, National Guard troops and Hesco dikes. FEMA, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. Portable toilets, sewage backup and politicians in flannel shirts. Morning news briefings, presidential declarations and “Road Closed” signs.

Those things, though, eventually worked seamlessly into the daily routine. You listened to the morning update from city officials, went out to check the dikes and grabbed a cup of coffee from the Salvation Army van. Just another spring day in ’09 on the Red River of the North.

The news choppers were a reminder that we were a major story, with the eyes of the nation watching – and perhaps waiting for us to go under water. It was just so strange, so unnerving, to be the news. It was March 27, a Friday, when the home of Jim and Bonnie Myers burned in Oakport Township in Minnesota. Two news helicopters were on the scene quickly, hovering for several minutes before zipping past my neighborhood north of Moorhead.

“You know those aerial shots you see on TV from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes?” I said to my neighbor. “We’re living that right now. We’re those people.”

“I could live without that,” was the reply.

We all could. No offense to my colleagues in the TV news business, but if Fargo-Moorhead never sees your helicopters again, we’ll be OK with that.


Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely

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