By now, many of you have heard the story of the tragic shooting outside Roanoke, Virginia, Wednesday morning.
24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and her 27-year-old photographer Adam Ward were shot and killed during a live broadcast on WDBJ7 news about tourism.
The woman that was being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, was shot in the back and underwent surgery. Her condition has stabilized.
The alleged shooter, a former employee at the station with the on-air name of Bryce Williams, was even live tweeting about the shooting and racism while police were looking for him.
Just before his Twitter account was suspended, he disgustingly posted video of the shooting from his point-of-view. He ended up shooting himself and died at the hospital.
I didn’t know Alison and Adam. However, they are colleagues and this could happen to any of us in television news or in any profession. While the live broadcast can be found online, I want to remember Alison and Adam this way – happy.
As a television reporter, you usually go into work and pitch stories to determine what you’ll be covering for the newscast.
My only close call came in 1997, when I was a reporter for KLBK-13 in Lubbock, Texas.
I was covering a story about a daycare center that was temporarily shut down. While my photographer was getting video from across the street, a man started yelling and cussing at us.
As he started across the street, I told the photographer to keep rolling on the man approaching. He continued cussing us and I got between him and the photographer because he was trying to stop us from getting video. He shoved me against the car and when he failed at knocking the camera to the ground, he walked away still fuming at us.
While the alleged Virginia gunman knew his victims, it doesn’t change the fact that this could have been just a random person with anger issues and wanted to take it out on a television reporter and photographer.
We’ve all seen the people that think it’s funny to stand behind a reporter and wave, make faces, or make rude remarks. As a journalist, it’s not funny to us when we’re relaying the news on television. Think about it, we wouldn’t walk into where you work and do the same thing.
And, after this tragedy, I hope it drives home the fact that it can be scary doing these reports when we don’t know what people’s intentions are as they approach us — unless they are ranting at us! At that point, it’s pretty obvious that they’re not there to say “I love watching you on the news”.
The world of social media has changed the way we do our jobs and how we communicate with our viewers. People not only watch us on television, but they follow us online and on their phones.
I’m speaking for myself here as a meteorologist and journalist when I say that I have a decent following on Facebook. While I have a work page where I post just weather, a large portion of my Facebook friends are people that friend me because they know me from television.
Because of that, there isn’t much that they don’t know about my life.
I’m okay with that because I’ve gotten to know many of them on a personal, if only online, basis. I cherish that relationship and I also hope that people know that I’m approachable as long as it isn’t creepy!
In the wake of this unsettling, senseless tragedy that rocked my profession and took the lives of two of my colleagues who are loved and will be sorely missed by family and friends, it makes me want to take a step back and re-evaluate those I work with, those I correspond with, and those I choose to let into my world.
I hope you realize that we’re human just like you, even if it may come across that we’re “celebrities”. I understand why the word is used, but I don’t buy into it. My job is no different than yours. Mine just happens to be more public.
Vicki Gardner, I hope you fully recover. Alison and Adam, rest in peace and I hope your loved ones find solace one day.
Peace and love,