I was once part of a reporting team covering a hostage situation. A doctor's wife was kidnapped at a local mall and the bad guys fled to a nearby neighborhood with their hostage, with police hot on their trail.
My job was to call nearby homes to try to get some idea of what was going on as police searched for the kidnappers.
You could say I was surprised when my third or fourth random call was answered by the hostage. One of the kidnappers came on the line briefly before police cut in.
To make a long story short, it all ended well, the hostage safe, the bad guys in custody and nobody hurt.
That was my first experience with communicating with those involved in a hostage situation in real time. The long-ago incident came to mind last weekend during the standoff between Ogden police and Jason Valdez in a downtown motel.
Valdez, if you don't know, took the standoff communication thing to a whole new level, using Facebook to chat with friends and on-line followers during the 16-hour standoff.
Valdez' out-of-the-box use of the popular communication tool has caught public attention. A Google search on his name Friday morning turned up references and commentary from such diverse outlets as the Lubbock, Texas, Avalanche Journal web site, Village Voice and MSNBC.
Assistant Police Chief Randy Watt told reporter Jessica Miller that the department has received queries from eight to 10 out-of-state media organizations. And CNN was due in town Friday to talk to OPD about the incident.
Social media has been with us for awhile and is well established as a news-gathering tool for reporters, a good way to find out about people in the news.
People have also used Facebook and Twitter to make news-related announcements about themselves or their organizations.
But Valdez seems to have blazed a new trail, carrying on a real-time conversation while holding police at bay.
Where it all ends up is beyond me to predict, but one thing is sure: Valdez opened the door to a whole world of social networking that most people hadn't imagined a short week ago.
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE? Telephone calls give us a pretty good insight into how people view the newspaper and its role.
One such call this week reinforced the fact there is sometimes a blurry understanding of the line between public and private.
The caller was upset about a photo of her that we ran. It was taken in a public place and her name was not included in the photo cutline, but she felt that the photo showed her in a bad light and she should have been asked.
Now, let me say here that we don't run around shooting random photos of people in public just to run them in the pages of the Standard-Examiner.
The photo in question illustrated the point of the story that it accompanied. And she was in a public place.
It would have been different, and her expectations of privacy different, if, for example, she was in her own home or yard.
But she wasn't.
Doing public things in public places is fair game for anybody passing by, including a newspaper photographer.
Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He may be reached at 801-625-4224 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org