Alison Parker w/ Adam Ward - WDBJ7 r

Alison Parker w/ Adam Ward – WDBJ7 Roanoke VA

I didn’t want to know the details of the shooting deaths of the two TV news folk in Roanoke.  I didn’t want to let it unduly upset me.  I had to work hard to make that happen Wednesday.

Though stories kept popping up on my desktop Wednesday, I declined to read them. In recent years, I have tried not to dwell on the details of all the repeated incidents of gun violence in America.  I don’t dwell on the details because I am numbed by the frequency and scope of the carnage.

When some guy entered an elementary school and killed 20 tiny children and six adults in Connecticut, I read every detail.  I got upset.  When Congress declined to act on gun violence following that massacre, I decided I needed to stop letting mass killings upset me.

(And what might Congress have done?  Ban sales of assault rifles?  It may seem like a sensible baby step, because assault rifles are ergonomically designed to rapidly take out multiple human targets.  But any action short of weapon confiscation would have little impact on the casual firepower now available to Americans, and the jackboot solution would only pit gun owners against government workers and beget more carnage.  So “gun control” isn’t really an option anymore, if it ever was.)

The Washington Post calculates that there has been, on average, more than one mass shooting in America every single day in 2015.

I care that the young lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward of WDBJ-TV were snuffed by a handgun-toting fool in Roanoke.  I do care.  When I allow myself a few sideways glances of their images on the internet — seeing but not studying their smiling young faces, committing acts of television the same way I’ve done for a gazillion years — I do see a reflection. I lament their loss and the grief of their friends and family.

Alison-Parker-24-and-Adam-Ward-500x312It is about the senseless violence that befell them.  It is not, emphatically, about me and the other folks who toil in my business who are, perhaps, allowing themselves to wonder if they might be next.  Because the answer is yes, they might be.  I might be.

But so might you.  So might all of our families and friends and other strangers whose acquaintances we make only after we read about something horrible befalling them.

The TV news business has its dangers, and they are acknowledged only infrequently.  A few weeks back, in the northwest Atlanta neighborhood known as The Bluff, I heard gunfire too-close to where I was doing a 5pm live shot.  We calmly packed our gear and did our 6pm live shot elsewhere.

In late spring, a mob assaulted a WAGA photographer who was covering a story late at night in a rough part of town.

But Parker and Ward were covering a feature story at the crack of dawn at a location where one could not reasonably predict danger.  They were targeted by a madman.  Just like the kids in Sandy Hook.  Just like all the innocent adults killed in workplace violence.

So what befell them wasn’t their occupation.  It was a madman.

And yes, madmen with a sense of planning and a flair for publicity could target other TV folk doing live shots in a fixed, public location with only their live trucks to shield them. Maybe they’ll bear a grudge against members of a mostly unpopular profession.

But I’m not going to worry about it.

Our industry does have its vulnerabilities.  The trend toward using one-man-bands in major markets remains troubling.  In addition to doing the work of two people, they lack the extra set of eyes which could potentially warn against somebody aiming to do harm.

Yet the folks who died in Roanoke were working as a two-person team, not solo.

Out in the world — where TV news folk are frequently welcomed but often scorned — we are merely human beings asking uncomfortable questions and bearing the logos of news operations.  Madmen lusting for blood have target-rich environments wherever they go.  We are merely one of them. My situational awareness is my shield.  In a parallel way, so is my numbness.

I am, darkly, an optimist.  My odds of surviving a workday are quite good.

So I care about my safety, and that of my colleagues.  But I’m not going to let the Roanoke killings unduly upset me.  I’m not going to let that horrific violence prevent me from standing in a public place tethered to a TV camera.  Maybe I’ll be a target.

But sadly, none of us is safe– regardless of what we do for a living.

Since writing this post, I’ve scoured the internet for images of Parker and Ward, and begun to read their stories.  Ward was “vivacious and funny.”  Parker is described a genuinely shining light at WDBJ whose likability is evident in a video the station made touting “7 fun facts about Alison Parker.” Watching that video — and finally reading about her and Ward — have shaken my resolve to avoid getting upset.

I would like to extend my sympathies to their families, friends and coworkers.


This entry was posted in workplace safety on by .

About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

6 thoughts on “Targets

  1. Jim

    Unfortunately the situation we have now has no solution in sight. We have those on one side who are demanding that no one ever have a gun, and those on the other side that say anyone who want’s one should have one. Caught in the middle? We The People. Until we reach out, grab both sides, and knock their heads together IN THE MIDDLE, we get nowhere on this.

    We need the “gun guys” which I count myself among, although not that far afield, to recognize that there need to be some things done to work on this. Meet in the middle.

    We need the “no guns guys” to recognize that that just isn’t going to happen, and to figure our actual workable solutions, based on what the problem really is, not on fear or innuendo, or assumptions, but on hard data.

    Take the idea of an assault weapons ban. I’m not one of these hard core guys who says, “that’s not an assault weapon” and argues semantics-we all know what kind of gun we’re talking about. Black plastic, 30 round mag, looks like it came straight off a Rambo set

    Pressing for an assault weapons ban may actually be doing gun control more harm than good. Hard data, backed by the FBI shows that assault rifles are involved 300 to 500 times per year. Heck, all long guns combined are still only a small percentage of the total. That’s a small drop in the very large bucket of ten thousand plus firearms deaths that happen every year. So, if every single black plastic rifle left tomorrow, we’d drop that total by a couple of percent. That’s it. It’s like trying to stop drunk driving by banning Red Corvettes. The risk/reward on this is completely wrong for it to be a strategy worth pursuing. Instead, how about involving these guys who shoot these guns, the vast majority of whom are not gun totin’ rednecks, in youth mentoring programs to teach these kids responsible gun ownership. This way, instead of making an enemy, they would be an ally.

    There are other steps, but they all have to start with both sides walking toward the middle

    Prayers to the families of those two young folks. I’ve stood where that man stood, and understand how vulnerable you are when your world is locked to what you can see through that viewfinder.

    Please guys, watch each other’s backs. No live shot is worth giving up that much situational awareness.

    1. Steve

      Your proposal for meeting in the middle would be to have assault weapon owners initiate a youth mentoring program to teach kids machine gun safety? And you feel that the number of incidents involving assault weapons (300 to 500 per year) is too low to pursue a ban, so we may as well keep on selling them? That’s not meeting in the middle to find ways of limiting the number of deaths from guns; that is very weak justification for maintaining a hobby of shooting guns for the sake of entertainment.

  2. DonB

    As the day went on yesterday, I thought about what effect this was having on you and your colleagues, Doug and what you would post. My own feelings lean toward despair rather than the anger that is my usual reaction to these outrages. I see this young lady and see my own daughters. On CNN this morning, Cornell West said some (unusually) coherent things that came down to “we’ve got to move away from this theme in our culture that we can solve our personal problems with violence” and he underscored that by stating that more people were killed in the state of California — by knives — than by all means in Canada. Shocking if that is true.

  3. English Major

    When I first heard this story, it was a deeply disturbing reminder of the dangers that a news crew can face…random stalkers, coming from anywhere, bent on destruction. My husband is a photojournalist and I worry about him and the places his job takes him, more than I let him know. But as the details emerged, I realized that the issue was different. Virtually every workplace has experienced a disgruntled employee, including mine. What made this different is that the extremity of an employee’s retribution played out on live TV. But fatal attacks have happened at other workplaces before, and will again. I’m sure I’m not the only one re-thinking the security of the place I work. Just as I’m sure I’m not the only one deeply moved by the vivacious young faces of those who lost their lives in a brutal way to a sadly misguided person bent on destruction.

  4. jaye watson

    I’m different from you in that I take this stuff and wear it like a heavy coat. I wallow in it, gorging myself on every detail, I guess in the hope that it will make some sort of sense. It never does. And that makes me profoundly sad. And then I despair. And then it starts to fade and we all go on, until it happens again, which it always does.

  5. Rod steel

    My question is how is this any more terrible than the people dying from gun violence every day? The media makes this out to be an unusual event. It is not. It’s just the media giving it more coverage. Stop all gun violence!


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