For this exercise, I’ll tell the stories of five photos over the course of five days.
In May 2005 a woman who was planning her wedding decided that she had enough. The wedding was shaping up to be a huge affair, with 14 bridesmaids and ushers and 600 guests. So, she did what I would do if faced with such a ridiculous situation: She ran away.
At first officials thought she was abducted, but then they found evidence that she took off on her own, so it was much less newsworthy…to me. She took a bus from Georgia to Las Vegas, spent the night, then took another bus to Mexico. That small Las Vegas connection was enough for the local and national media to anchor the story to the city. I didn’t even want to write about it (I was a crime reporter at the Las Vegas Sun at the time) because there wasn’t really anything to it. No crime was committed, she was an adult who just left, and she has the right to do that.
The cops said they were investigating, but there were no credible reported sightings of her. And frankly, I was busy with a bunch of other stuff and it seemed like a stupid story with such a tenuous connection to us.
So, I panicked when I received a call from Fox TV’s show, “On the Record” with Greta van Susteren, and they were looking for a Las Vegas police reporter to come on the show, talking head style, to chat about this runaway bride. I didn’t want to do it because it was a dumb story and I hate TV news (and still do) and I hate Fox News (and still do) and tried to get out of it. But within a few hours I was sitting in an empty studio on the other side of town with a microphone on my shirt talking to Greta van Sustern on live national television.
I had been on television before, but just locally in Las Vegas, just like all of the other reporters at my paper. And then later I was the spokesperson for the Las Vegas chapter of the American Red Cross and speaking to all media was part of the job. But this was the first and only time I was on national TV.
It wasn’t so bad, and it only lasted maybe a minute. This runaway bride was said to have stayed at one of the resorts on The Strip, but she only had X amount of money on her at the time. So Greta asked me how much a room at this hotel would cost and I just made something up because I didn’t know, and a few other contextual questions like that.
The show didn’t air until 10 p.m. EST, so I told my sister in Philly to stay up and watch it. But the 10 p.m. show was the rebroadcast — it was shown live at 7 p.m. on the east coast. (In Las Vegas it was on after midnight.) So when I was answering her questions with the camera aimed at me, I didn’t realize I was on live TV right then. I’m not sure why that wasn’t explained to me but it’s probably better that I didn’t know. I might have vomited.
When I left the studio I was handed a VHS tape, which I still have somewhere (but no VCR). I took this photo of the TV as I played the tape later. I broke a lot of cool crime stories and some did get picked up by the Associated Press, but it sort of sucks that this trashy story held more appeal.