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Meet Kevin: Wow! A citizen reporter who could be the new Rhoda Young

Realtor/coach/mentor takes in two Detroit fires with a unique reporting style

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Wow! All I can say is “Wow!” And you will too once you see the video of a pair of Detroit house fires narrated by Kevin Paffrath, a realtor who is also a self-described coach and mentor. The video is certain to become an instant classic in the citizen reporter category. As many of you know, one of the true stars of that genre is Rhoda Young. Rhoda has made quite a name for herself in the Norfolk, Virginia area and beyond. If you’re unfamiliar with Rhoda’s body of work, check out excerpts from her debut viral video (below) that rocketed Rhoda to fame. Rhoda and Kevin seem to share some important citizen reporter instincts.

This is Kevin’s day job

As a long-time watcher and noted reviewer of citizen video reporting, I’ve identified important common elements in Kevin and Rhoda’s work that may give us a standard to measure all future reporting of this type:

  • Keeping the camera focused on the reporter and not the the action. Kevin may have taken this to a new level. The camera rarely turns away from this well-coiffed and stylishly dressed narrator to focus on the action. It’s almost unfair to compare the two in this area because Rhoda has the disadvantage of performing the camera work herself.
  • Use of a catchphrase. For Rhoda it’s “This is Rhoda Young reporting live” repeated numerous times throughout the video. Kevin has a much simpler expression that’s used more often. The word “Wow!” seems to punctuate most every comment throughout the video.
  • Getting up close and personal. It’s not just the title of an awful Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer movie about TV news, it was actually a style of sports journalism perfected by the late Roone Arledge. I think both Rhoda and Kevin take this to a new level, walking far into an emergency scene with apparently minimal situational awareness.
  • Confidence in your reporting. Neither Kevin or Rhoda show any embarrassment or shame in apparently knowing little about the topic of their reports. It takes a certain kind of moxie to talk at the top of your lungs as you walk through the scene describing fire department operations in great detail without having any particular knowledge of how things work. I think people really like this. The lack of expertise puts you on equal footing with much of the audience. If I were to look back at my career honestly, my fire department background was probably my downfall as a TV reporter. More and more today, you get the impression people just aren’t that interested in hearing from people on the TV, computer or smartphone screen who actually know what they’re talking about.

But it’s the differences in style that may give Rhoda the edge as the superior reporter. You’ll recall there were times Rhoda even went so far as to try and direct what was going on in the scene playing out in front of her. Who can forget that thrilling moment when Rhoda used her Facebook live broadcast to attempt alerting the power company about electric wires that just fell or when she gave the order to get hose lines on the house next door.

While both reporters were faced with intentionally set fires, the best we can tell is Kevin only interviewed witnesses, while Rhoda focused on a suspect. Her riveting interview with the man whose home burned set off Rhoda’s internal smoke alarm. Rhoda almost immediately expressed her suspicions about the man to her live audience. Despite getting the stink eye from fire investigators, Rhoda was right there to show his arrest live. Not many citizen reporters have an arrest stat of their own.

While he may not yet be Rhoda’s equal, Kevin was quite impressive with a few memorable lines that I won’t soon forget, including:

  • “You can see the feet coming out of the fire truck.”
  • “Oh, I just got wet.”
  • “The cannon is now officially on to fight this fire from the sky.”
  • “Oh my gosh, these are set fires?”

While all excellent, they fail to top Rhoda’s classic, “This house is fully engorged.” Kevin Paffrath may be number one in his realtor/coach/mentor work, but at least for now, in the growing field of citizen reporting Kevin’s going to have settle for number two.

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