Ad Perpetuam Memoriam
Two journalists from WDBJ TV in Roanoke, Virginia, reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, were killed by a former station employee while they conducted a live TV interview. According to NPR’s Sandy Housman, the image of Vester Lee Flanigan, who worked as a reporter under the name of Bryce Williams, was captured by videographer Adam Ward’s camera. Flanigan apparently also videotaped himself carrying out the shooting and later, posted it on social media. The BBC reported that as someone who understood the power of TV and video, Mr. Flanigan stalked and ambushed both journalists. Virginia police reported Flanagan suffered a self-inflicted, life threatening gunshot wound and has been transported to a local hospital. He has since died from those wounds.
I cried when I heard of the shootings. I’ve worked in a TV newsroom. I’ve worked the early morning shift with people who shuffle in at two and three in the morning and scrounge for stories to have ready by a 6 or 7 a.m. newscast. I’ve joked with cameramen as they grabbed their gear and warmed up a truck. I’ve watched reporters scoop up notebooks and tape recorders as they hurry out the door into the dark to get ready for some live shot who-knows-where.
An American journalist hasn’t been murdered in America since 2007. According to Wikipedia, Chauncy Bailey of the Oakland Post was the most recent reporter killed by the target of an investigative report he was working on. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 1141 journalists have been killed around the world since 1992. But many American journalists have been killed on American soil. Wikipedia lists 48 journalists killed in the United States since 1837.
I have never been in a reporting situation where I thought my life was in danger. But, this simple and routine interview these two professionals went to cover; one of a thousand they’ve done before, almost certainly seemed ordinary and harmless to them as well.
Allison Parker – WDBJ-TV Reporter
Adam Ward – WDBJ-TV Cameraman