Covering the MTSU “Ebola Scare”



Chris Davis Multimedia Journalist 

November 25, 2014


This morning, I was completing my required scholarship hours in the New Student and Family Programs office, when my boss got a strange phone call. It was from her friend over in the Business and Aerospace Building. She urged my boss to rush outside of the Keathley University Center to witness quite a spectacle going on outside.

Dozens of police officers, fire rescue, and hazmat trucks were outside of the courtyard – along with hundreds of feet of crime tape wrapped around the BAS courtyard.

Like a kid in a candy store, I gave one look at my boss, Gina. She read my mind almost instantly and responded with “Go ahead Chris, I know you want to check it out.”

My reporter instinct kicked in. I immediately knew that access to the area would only become more restricted as more students came to campus and as class changes began, so I took pictures first. With parts of the courtyard still open, I rushed over and took the picture taken above. I took a few more. Once satisfied, I went back outside.

Almost immediately, the rumor mill began churning. The buzz overwhelmingly indicated that this mysterious bucket might have something to do with “Ebola”.

Wanting confirmation, I went over to the nearest officer, told them I was student media, and asked them what was going on.

This initiated what I call public safety musical chairs. Police officer’s always have a very strict policy of never ever speaking to media. They rely on their departments PIO (public information officer) and whenever possible, an outside spokesman.

Today’s lucky draw in the public safety musical chairs was Jimmy Hart, Director of MTSU News and Media Relations. After being passed off by 3 different officers, finally the head officer referred me to Jimmy. He followed up by saying , “Jimmy is on his way now.”

So I waited  and watched. In the meantime, I played virtually 2 roles today. I am still the News Director of MT10 News, the on-campus news station. I am also a newly hired Associate Producer at WTVF NewsChannel5 in Nashville. So, I alerted both organizations of the developments.

Meanwhile, I waited, and froze, and waited, and froze until finally, it donned on me, Jimmy wasn’t on his way.

I called his office.

He confirmed some of the details that I had heard, but most importantly, he confirmed that the bucket was labeled “Ebola”. Most amusingly, he directly declined my request to interview him on camera.

With this new information, I updated both WTVF and MT10. Realizing I had spent a long time during my scheduled hours to work for my office, I returned inside.

Logging back on to my social media, I quickly discovered my pictures had been picked up by all of the Nashville media. Naturally WTVF had my photos, but because MT10 News is not a direct competitor in Nashville, with attribution, WSMV and WKRN also used my photos under the name of MT10 News. Pretty good exposure for a “little ole college station” and a big pat on the back from my superiors at WTVF.

It was a good day.