AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article includes a vivid description of a murder that many readers would find to be unsettling.
Alison Parker, a reporter for WDBJ-TV, the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia, and Adam Ward, a news photographer for the same station, were shot and killed earlier this morning at Bridgewater Plaza (a miniature golf course, arcade room, shops, and restaurants that primarily serve tourists at Smith Mountain Lake) in Moneta, Virginia. The shooting occurred as Parker was doing a live, on-air interview. Parker was 24 years of age; Ward was 27 years of age. Vester Flanagan, a former WDBJ reporter who went under the stage name Bryce Williams when he was a WDBJ employee, was the perpetrator of the attack; Flanagan fled the scene and committed suicide in another part of Virginia.
I’ve seen video of the shooting once (it’s been plastered all over social media), and I don’t want to see it again, but I will give a description of the shooting. Parker was interviewing a subject about a light subject of some kind and several shots were fired. Parker remained very calm as the first couple of shots that were fired, but then Parker began screaming extremely loudly (although I didn’t actually see a bullet enter Parker’s body on-camera, I’m guessing Parker began screaming after she had been hit by one or more bullets), and then the camera was knocked over in a way that it was filming a deck or balcony and that Parker was not in the view of the camera lens. It’s the single most disturbing thing I’ve ever watched online.
Many people don’t realize this, but journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. Even if they’re not covering war or some other type of hostility, journalists, especially if they work in television, are regularly in the public eye and do their jobs with the constant threat that someone might harm, or even kill, them for whatever reason. Additionally, those who work with journalists, such as news photographers, face the same threats as journalists do. Parker and Ward were shot and killed while doing a fluff piece.