Wednesday, August 26, 2015

They kill journalists now, too

There's no doubt we live in a world surrounded by depraved individuals. Our headlines are filled with news of ISIS fundamentalists destroying ancient ruins while engaging in mass kidnappings, rapes and other atrocities, children being abused by those they had trusted most, and opportunist hucksters robbing innocents blind. And Donald Trump. Can't forget him, either.

After a while, all those headlines can have a numbing effect, as if the torrent of depravity somehow dulls our ability to process it all.

Yet news this morning of two journalists being gunned down while in the middle of a live on-location broadcast just outside Moneta, Virginia somehow seems to strike a nerve I didn't know I still had. Alison Parker was doing what reporters have been doing for ages: a live interview for her local morning news program about an issue of relevance to her community. Her cameraman, Adam Ward, was capturing the scene at around 6:45 a.m. when someone walked up to them both and started shooting.

The TV station cut back to the studio. By the time it was all over, Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were dead, and police were hunting a suspect who Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, says might be a disgruntled ex-employee of WDBJ, the television station where Parker and Ward worked.

Being on-location with your cameraperson is a unique privilege. You work as a team to overcome the challenges associated with doing live television from the middle of nowhere. You use the landscape around you to tell the story, and in doing so you learn to trust each other innately. While it isn't unheard of to be heckled or honked - I've even had a friendly dog say hello during a live interview - you always know your partner has your back, and between the two of you you'll always manage to bring back something good.

Parker's and Ward's assailant had other plans this morning, and their deaths make the rest of us in media wonder about the risks we face when we simply want to do what we were born to do.

I have no answers, but given what I do, and my connection to a wider media family both here in London and elsewhere, silence didn't seem to be an option. We tell stories, and despite the unexplainable rage of a still-unknown dark soul this morning, I'm willing to bet those of us still standing have no intention of putting our mics and cameras down.


Update - 12:10pm ET - Police now confirm that the suspect, Vester Lee Flanigan, who went by the name Bryce Williams, has shot himself and is in critical condition. Williams was a former WDBJ employee, and had reportedly posted video of him shooting the victims this morning before Twitter suspended his account. I'll be discussing the implications of social media in cases like this with host Eric Drozd on 570News Kitchener tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 10:05.

Update - 2:15pm ET - Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton has confirmed to reporters at a press conference that "the suspect in Wednesday's killing of two WDBJ journalists died at about 1:30 p.m. at a hospital of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."


Kalei's Best Friend said...

It seems as though no one is safe... I remember when Bob Woodward was injured..thankfully, he recovered but the emotional scars will always be there... I bet your family takes a breath whenever you go out to do your job...

Unknown said...

It broke my heart...I saw the full footage. They're both gone. Two fiancee's and two sets of parents now have their lives changed forever.