Managing editor: We have ears on the scanner all night

Mike Frizzell, owner of Operation 100 News

When my phone rings in the middle of the night, I know who’s on the other line: Mike Frizzell.

After our reporters and editors go home, sometime after midnight, Mike is our first responder for public safety news.

Mike, who lives in Shawnee, owns and operates Operation 100 News. He listens to public safety scanner traffic overnight and blogs and tweets what he finds on his own Operation 100 News blog and Twitter feed.

The Journal-World contracts with Mike to listen to Douglas County traffic, to post news stories on and to add items to our Facebook and Twitter feeds. If a story requires a photographer or an on-scene reporter, he’ll call an editor.

Mike monitors scanner traffic from Lawrence Police, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Baldwin City Police, Eudora Police, Kansas University Public Safety Office, Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas Turnpike Authority. Fire medical includes all of the county township fire.

For us, it means that our readers can have up-to-date news without our having to staff the newsroom overnight — a financial impracticality given how little typically occurs here between midnight and 7:30 a.m.

Mike was bitten by the scanner bug as a child. He grew up with family members in law enforcement and the fire service and a grandmother who had her own scanner, which became a fascination for him. “My parents bought me my first scanner, a Radio Shack Pro-2040, around my 11th birthday,” Mike said. “It came with a list of local frequencies. I had it programmed and scanning that evening.”

He’s also one of those people who are drawn to public safety news. When he was in fifth grade, Shawnee Village Bowl was destroyed by fire on the day his intramural group was scheduled to bowl there after school.

“I remember being able to see the thick black smoke towering into the sky as I walked to my bus for the ride home from school,” Mike said. “It was a cold and cloudy winter day, so the black smoke really stood out in the sky. When I got home, I asked my mom if we could go watch. This is the first fire that I can remember watching firefighters work to extinguish.”

Mike began to make a business of his passion in 2009, when he started Tweeting about news in Johnson County and Lawrence. He soon had followers from throughout the news business. He got a paying client in 2010, and he started working for us in April 2011.

Our web readers and those who follow us on social media know how often they see Operation 100 News items on our feeds, and that it’s an important part of our coverage. But just as important is the phone call to a bleary-eyed editor who can roust a photographer and reporter when that’s needed. In March, for example, we were able to get staff on the scene quickly after a tractor-trailer crashed into the Kansas Turnpike tollbooth at the eastern terminal, killing the driver and causing significant traffic disruption.

Mike plans to be in business for a long time.

“With the evolution of smart phones, the Internet and various social media outlets, everyone expects the news at their fingertips,” he said. “I am continuing to update my technology to keep up with these changes.”

And that helps me sleep soundly at night.