One of the essential items in a breaking news photographers bag is the scanner. While paging services have become increasingly popular and more widespread, the handheld scanner is still a useful tool for getting the jump on breaking news stories.
Just the other day while on assignment staking out a police station for a perp walk I was listening to the precinct dispatch and discovered that an arrest had been made in the story I was covering, however the suspect was being transferred over to a different precinct instead. I immediately called my editor who sent another photographer to that precinct to grab the shot. Without having heard the radio chatter on a scanner, all of this would have gone on unnoticed until the press release hours later and with no opportunity for visuals.
My first scanner was large and cumbersome and was covered in more buttons than I knew what to do with. Scanners are a lot easier to use than they used to be. My personal scanner, the RadioShack PRO-107 is compact and has a simple to use menu based interface. It doesn't require manually looking up and programming frequencies like scanners of old. Instead it's programmed using a computer and all information is transferred over via a memory card. The software also includes a database of radio frequencies for municipalities across the country.