Baltimore TV reporters improvise after man crashes truck into station

Posted at 5:13 PM, May 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-13 17:13:22-04

(CNN) — The biggest story in Baltimore Tuesday is happening inside the headquarters of the city’s ABC-affiliated station, WMAR, and the station’s reporters can’t get on the air to cover it.

The station was evacuated around 11:45 a.m. after an unidentified man smashed a truck through the lobby and screamed that he was God. Police began an hours-long search of the building to find him.

All the while, WMAR journalists could relay information only via Twitter and the station’s website. By mid-afternoon, a makeshift newsroom had been set up about a mile north of the station — but the reporters still had no way to broadcast.

WMAR, known as Channel 2 locally, was broadcasting regularly scheduled, taped shows at the time of the intrusion. It continued to run on a television version of auto-pilot all afternoon (“The People’s Court,” “General Hospital,” etc.) while two of its rivals, WJZ and WBAL, covered the breaking news story nonstop.

Competitive tendencies abated for at least a few hours: WMAR staffers who witnessed the crash gave interviews to the other stations, and WMAR’s website streamed a simulcast of WJZ’s live coverage.

Station officials said on Twitter that every staff member had been accounted for. Initially the staffers waited outside at a safe distance from the station headquarters; around 2:30 p.m., a yellow school bus arrived to take some of them to a Marriott hotel in Towson, Maryland, where they regrouped and began to plan news coverage for the rest of the day.

Other staffers stayed on the scene to gather information.

Without access to the airwaves, “they’re using social media to get out their message,” WJZ reporter Derek Valcourt told viewers.

Live newscasts are scheduled to resume at 5 p.m., but it is unclear what will happen, since staffers are unable to enter the building.

“Our awesome engineers are fighting like hell to get us back on-air from off-site,” WMAR investigative and general assignment reporter Brian Kuebler wrote on Twitter at 3 p.m.

Around the same time, the WMAR news director Kelly Groft wrote, “We are gathering to figure out what is next. We still aren’t allowed in the building.”