Spot news is news that happens "on the spot." It's completely unexpected and usually involves an emergency or a quickly developing story like fires, police action or extreme weather.
It's fairly straightforward to shoot — just get there as quickly as possible and shoot whatever unfolds. But these types of situations also require discretion on the part of the photographer because they often involve people who are in trouble or a situation that threatens the public.
Many of these stories involve saving a life, protecting property, or a dangerous police action. Spot news is unplanned. You have to balance the need to tell the story while being sensitive toward the people involved. We didn't have many opportunities this year to shoot spot news, but this dramatic rescue photo showing Newport Beach lifeguards and firefighters recovering a drowned swimmer is a prime example.
In the news photo world, it might be considered a great photo, but it certainly wasn't a great situation to shoot. It was an unfortunate ending to an accident, and hundreds of people watched the rescue live from the beach. This photo shows what it needs to show, without being too graphic, and hopefully conveys the story with sensitivity to the victim. But, at the same time, it tells the story of the efforts by our local emergency personnel.
Spot news is about getting to the picture fast and capturing the moment that tells the story best with regards to everyone involved. Hopefully there aren't many of these throughout the year, but it is our responsibility as news photographers to capture them when they do occur.