How Dave Statter Became A Reporter

Awesome “as told to” in the January issue of the Washingtonian about how Dave Statter, a traffic reporter, became a news reporter first for radio station WTOP and then TV station WUSA, both in Washington DC.

Statter had just been let go from his traffic reporting job and was holed up in his condo. He was listening to the police scanner, a holdout from his days as a firefighter, when he heard about a plane crash.

This crash turned out to be Air Florida Flight 90, which had crashed into DC’s 14th Street Bridge on takeoff.

Statter says: “I called the WTOP newsroom and said, ‘Look, you don’t know me, but there’s been a plane crash at the 14th Street Bridge.'”

He was able to talk his way into a nearby hotel:

I was just walking up the hallway and there was a door open and I knocked on it. I looked in and they were all outside on the balcony watching. I said, “I want to do a radio report. Can I use your phone and stand on the balcony?”

I stood in the freezing cold, with my binoculars in one hand and the phone in the other, and gave WTOP live reports. I’d done some radio when I was in college and worked as a disk jockey in southern Maryland, but I’d never been a reporter for a radio station in a major market. This was my audition.

I was too stunned to be nervous. I could not believe there was a commercial plane between the bridges, in the river. I could see the helicopter swooping down, and I tried to make out what was going on with the rescues. I could see the damaged cars on the bridge. I just started talking, describing what I saw.

The next day, they said they needed an extra traffic reporter. “I walked in, got a tape recorder and car, and they said, ‘Here’s the keys. We’ll fill out the paperwork later.’ By Friday they said, ‘Would you like a full-time job?'”