Live from the war zone
Some 35,000 to 40,000 Norfolk-area troops were serving in the Middle East. WTKR-
TV sent its military reporter Betty Francis to Saudi Arabia several times during the
American buildup. She was there in January, arriving in Dhahran two days before the
"I called her when I realized something was starting over there. It was night, so she
was asleep, but she immediately got up and headed for the Joint Information Bureau,"
said News Director Jay Mitchell.
However, when Francis and photographer Brian Igelman got outside the front door of
their hotel, the air raid sirens started. The news crew members headed for the bomb
shelter and were unable to call the station for an hour.
When Francis did call she described the experience for viewers back home.
She talked about seeing children, women, journalists --- everybody in the shelter ---
wearing their gas masks, sealed in the bomb shelter for an hour, although it seemed a
lot longer to them.
"It was a very personal report about her experience," Mitchell said.
In the days that followed, they used Francis live as much as they could, both via
telephone and satellite. While network correspondents talked primarily about troop
movements and battles, Francis concentrated on what the local people were going
through. Mitchell thought viewers could better appreciate what the troops were feeling
by sharing her experiences.
War plan had been organized
Like executives at many stations, the WTKR managers had developed a full war plan
in case there were hostilities.
Designating specific desks. A Family Desk, a Casualty Desk, a War Desk, a Medical
Desk, a Religion Desk, and a Consumer Desk.
A war bulletin board. One bulletin board in the newsroom was designated for
strictly war-related information and story ideas.
"Anyone who has an idea, can jot it down. They can also write on it names and
numbers of people who call," Mitchell told the Rundown.
War wire. All war copy was put in one location, so everyone could find it quickly.