TRUE TO THEIR IMAGE
September 7, 2012
By Audrey Fraizer
A survey wasn’t necessary to satisfy a long-held belief among The Journal’s editorial staff about dispatchers.
They are a modest bunch, almost to a fault.
The proof came as a result of an error—and I’ll admit mine—in a story about two girls winning an award for their timely actions to help their grandpa. Grandpa had fallen down in the house and after the girls went to check on the noise they heard, they did as grandma had taught them. They called 9-1-1.
Grandpa was transported to the hospital and the girls worked on arts and crafts with a responding officer while waiting for their mom and grandma to arrive.
The girls received an award from 9-1-1 for Kids during the Closing Luncheon of Navigator. The dispatcher answering the call was also welcomed on stage and together they—the girls, grandpa, dispatcher, and award sponsors—posed for a photo later published along with the story in the magazine. The picture focuses on the two girls.
When writing the story, I accidentally attributed the call to an agency that neither answered the call nor sent a response. The truth of the error arrived over my phone several days after the magazine was mailed. I was out of the office so the caller left a message asking that I clarify that it was Baltimore County 9-1-1 that took the call, rather than the agency named in the story.
The person calling—and it wasn’t the dispatcher—was very cordial but not the cold kind of cordial reminiscent of my years in newspaper reporting. Make a mistake in a daily and you’ll likely be holding the phone away from your ear while the school board member, mayor, council member, or other presumably slighted individual lets loose on high volume.
Not so with this caller. She was very polite and, true to form, asked us not to print her name to keep the focus on the dispatcher. During a subsequent phone call, she gave me the name of the dispatcher and I asked her if the dispatcher—Heather Baker— would be interested in setting the record straight. I asked her. I was not told. The story resulting from our interview is in the Your Space section of this edition.
Heather was happy to tell her side of the story, meaning the plight of the two girls as seen from her end of the line. It wasn’t much different from how we described the incident, except for the part about which agency handled the call. She wasn’t upset about the mistake, and she wasn’t hung up on the “me” omission (her name being left out in the original article). In fact, she didn’t seem to care about that stuff.
“It’s nice when 9-1-1 gets recognized for the good things,” she said. “And it’s really nice when it’s your center that receives the attention.”
Then she laughed.
“By the way, I wasn’t completely left out of the story,” she said. “That arm behind the two girls in the photo—it’s mine.”
And much to my chagrin, the hand at the end of the arm is holding the certificate she received from the same organization; her name appears in bold type.