Violence + journalists = a deadly mix



Staff illustration Isai Diaz – Images courtesy

As journalists, we are used to reality hitting us hard. Every so often, however, there is a story that stands out and hits us where it hurts the most: our profession.

This time it was a fatal shooting where two journalists, Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were killed during a live remote by a former employee of WDBJ, the Roanoke TV station where the victims worked. We won’t give the shooter’s name because we don’t want to give him any recognition.

The incident was not a direct attack on journalism, as the reporters were not killed because of they were journalists, but by personal matters between them and the shooter, according to The Associated Press.

We need to take a moment and analyze the modus operandi after the shooter. He not only wanted revenge, but wanted to carry out his macabre plan in front of thousands of viewers who where sitting in front of their TVs at the time. It was not enough to shoot three people while they were doing a live interview, though. He also filmed the deed with his phone and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. So the Audience got two videos of the same moment; two angles of the story.

The first is the video from the cameraman’s view, where the audience hears more than it sees. In the second, the shooter’s view was posted on social media. Television and newspaper websites showed both videos with an initial warning that the images might be hard to watch, to be responsible to their viewers so they could choose whether or not to watch.

In this kind of situation the same question always arises: Is it really necessary to show the video?

Some critics were quick to point out that TV stations were broadcasting the video of the shooter. Is it news or is it not? Does that particular video add information for viewers or is it there to satisfy their curiosity to see gore?

As journalists, it is our duty to offer our viewers, readers and listeners the facts, as they happened, although the facts in this case are reprehensible, even if they are difficult to observe. We would not be doing our job if we omitted parts of the shooting to make it more viewable.

Yes. The Chronicle staff believes it was necessary to post the video. The same freedom that protects us as reporters, can also be exercised by citizens. They have the power to choose to view this type of violence or not.

Parker and Ward were killed while practicing their profession. They are not the first journalists nor will they be the last, to experience violence, yet we must continue to report the news as it happens.

May they rest in peace.

– The Chronicle