Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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CULTURE SHOCK

Duty takes reporter off air for now

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    Michael Bratton

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Michael Bratton

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As my work email attests, TV viewers notice when that familiar face on a local newscast hasn't been so familiar.

Is she sick? Has he been fired? Was he consumed by the wrath of God?

Michael Bratton, the young nightside general assignment reporter at WTVG-TV, Channel 13, will not be on area televisions for almost the entire month of July.

He is not sick. He has not been fired. And, as of this column, he has not been consumed by the wrath of God.

Instead, the 26-year-old will be at an Air Force training school in California learning about bombs. Yes, bombs.

Bratton is a staff sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard whose job as a munitions system journeyman is to help assemble, inspect, and test munitions (aka bombs) for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He does this and his other military duties one weekend every month as part of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard in Swanton. Add to this the occasional more lengthy requirements, such as his July training, which perhaps take him elsewhere.

It's a part-time job that’s been a lifetime calling for Bratton, who joined the Ohio Air National Guard in December, 2010, while still earning his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism at Kent State University.

“It’s always been the plan,” he said. “I wanted to go to college, but I knew this was also something that I wanted to do ... and kind of needed to do.”

Just as his family has done and is doing.

Bratton’s mom recently retired from her 36-year career in the Ohio Air National Guard at the 180th Fighter Wing, his father is still in Ohio Air National Guard after years of service in the Air Force, and his younger sister is in active duty in the Air Force and stationed somewhere in the Pacific.

Then there’s the side of Bratton that has always had an interest in journalism, specifically broadcast.

“Being able to get out and about and hear and tell different stories each day is great,” he said. “No day is ever the same.”

Only two weeks after joining WTVG, for instance, Bratton was part of the station’s breaking news coverage of the murder of Sierah Joughin, the 20-year-old University of Toledo student who was abducted by James Worley in July, 2016, while she biked in rural Fulton County.

“It was an unforgettable” start, he said, to cover something “so sad.”

Being a broadcast journalist is a calling much like Bratton’s need to serve his country. In fact, his two jobs actually have a lot in common, he said, including a dress code, being well-groomed, and a shorter length of hair. They are also deadline driven and require the ability for quick action in the moment, even when under duress.

More importantly, they complement each other and, in a sense, inform him as a person, and as a journalist and staff sergeant, through experiences.

“They give you a view of things that you may not normally see in your career field,” he said. “As journalists, we get to see and do things that not everybody can see and get to do. It’s the same thing in the military.”

Bratton completed his bachelor’s degree at Kent State in 2014 and recently earned a master’s in public relations, so there is always that option.

For now, though, Bratton said he is committed to broadcast journalism and to the Toledo market. He is not certain about his part-time job, though. After his original six-year enlistment in the Ohio Air National Guard ended in December, he re-enlisted for one more year and hasn’t committed to a second re-enlistment just yet. 

“I’m not sold on what my decision will be,” he said, adding that regardless of whether he stays in uniform or not, “it’s also been an honor and privilege being able to serve my country and its citizens.”

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.

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