Watching WDBJ killings an insult to slain journalists
News breaks that two journalists were killed during a live broadcast. What’s your first reaction?
Probably the same one you had when former UCF student Steven Sotloff was beheaded in an ISIS video or when Saddam Hussein’s hanging was posted on YouTube.
Slasher films and first-person shooters — not to mention the stomach-churning crime we read about every day — have turned us into a desensitized nation hungry for a big helping of gore and guts.
So what a feast to hear a reporter and her cameraman were fatally shot on live television. The visual spread should satiate our rumbling tummies for a day at least. Oh, but wait! Their killer, a former colleague, filmed himself murdering the victims. A second helping! Good too, because we were already famished.
I don’t blame you. When I first heard the news, my first instinct was to go find the footage. Instead, I put that instinct on the shelf, shoved the urges in a drawer and swept my curiosity under the rug. Instead, I watched a broadcast from the victims’ news station, WDBJ, where anchors, who normally delivered news of drive-by shootings and devastating fires with ease, choked back tears.
Alison Parker and Adam Ward were people, just like you and me. So instead of reveling in their deaths, let’s remember the lives of a 24-year-old who had just moved in with her boyfriend and 27-year-old who had just gotten engaged.
Watching their last moments of life won’t help you know them any better, empathize with their families any harder or spread the story of their tragedy any farther. It will only validate the motives of their killer, Bryce Williams — his real name Vester Lee Flanagan II — , a man who allegedly devised a plot to murder his former colleagues and later shot himself during a police chase.
Several news outlets currently have the footage plastered all over their websites. These editors have obviously forgotten their lessons from Journalism Ethics 101. The entire idea of “we report, you decide,” is a ludicrous attempt to ladle a few more scoops of inappropriate gruel into the mouths of an ignorant readership.
The Central Florida Future was in a similar boat this time last year, when American journalist and former CFF writer Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS. We had access to the video, everyone did. But our editors made the right decision to not force feed our readers content that would likely have chunks rising in their throats. Instead, we posted old articles of Sotloff’s, photo galleries of his clips, and honored his life through coverage of a candlelight vigil and interviews with his old college roommate.
And if media outlets choose to share footage of the Roanoke, Virginia, shooting, don’t let their slimy click-bait attempts lure you in. Learn about these journalists, the first American reporters to be killed in the line of duty since 2007, not from the moments before their deaths, but from their 20 or so years of life.
Caroline Glenn is the Content Manager for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @bycarolineglenn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.