Hello, all. Welcome back. I posted on my blog approximately zero times over the duration of the summer. But school is back in session and in full swing! So you’ll get a weekly post from me once again. Possibly even more, if something sparks my fancy.
So I’m in my capstone class for journalism. Meaning I’m nearing the end of my college career which is terrifyingly exciting. I’ll continue The Questions Project , but before that gets going once again (I already have some people lined up, so yay!) I want to take a moment to do some reflecting.
Most people are aware of the incredibly tragic shooting of reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward during a live report Wednesday morning. It was horrifying, and the Internet has been collecting several articles commenting on the event ever since (such as this and this).
I’m currently working as a producer at one of the TV stations in Columbia. When the news broke, I was reading AP wires and preparing my 9 a.m. newscast. Initially, I didn’t quite grasp the severity of the incident. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m going to say it was because I didn’t personally digest it until after 9:30. I put it breaking at the top of my show, and chose not to run the video where it occurs because I didn’t want to put that on anyone’s TV screen. That’s just not something I wanted to put out there for someone to unintentionally see.
After the newscast, we had our morning meeting and I began preparing for the noon newscast. I did more research on the shooting, which wasn’t hard since it appeared to be the only thing coming in through my push notifications, Twitter feed, Facebook feed, etc.
At this time, I came across what appeared to be the shooter’s Twitter page. I scrolled a bit, shocked the person would have the audacity to kill these two journalists, let alone tweet about it.
The page refreshed, and up popped a video with a gun. It appeared to be from the vantage point of the shooter, and he was recording his perspective of the shooting. It began auto playing, and as I went to click it off, I accidentally moved the cursor to the moment where the gun went off.
It was not something I wanted to see. It was so cavalier. The method of consumption – an automatically playing Twitter video. It frazzled my day, and I couldn’t really focus. Even writing about it, I’m not completely sure I’m even conveying everything in an understandable format. But I’m normally not incredibly phased by violent images – they’re all over the news, the entertainment world – so, frankly, it kind of confused me. I think it was the casualness that threw me for a rut. It was probably the first real, emotional, personal response I’ve had to a news event.
Which leads me to this article from The Guardian, “Virginia Shootings: We learn nothing from seeing murder in real time”. It’s a great article discussing some news outlets’ decisions to play the video or host the video of the shooting on their website.
Printing photos and hosting videos of the moment these killings occurred is indefensible. It adds nothing to our understanding, plays into the perpetrator’s narrative, and deepens the pain of the bereaved.
I think this makes some great points, and it brings us to that new, age-old discussion on click bait. How far is too far? Where is the line? Is there a line?
This was beyond the line. It’s reminiscent of Nightcrawler, and nobody wants to be the station in Nightcrawler.
I’m having a difficult time explaining why, for me, this is more preposterous to put on television over a lot of the other things I’ve seen. But I think many will, and do, agree with me.
And perhaps it’s for semi-personal reasons. Several people in the news world jumped to a logical thought: that could be me. Or your colleague, friend, etc. I’m not a reporter, so I’m not in that situation. I am a producer, and I’m not dating someone in the news industry, but I cannot even imagine what it would be like to see your fiancee die on live television. Right in front of you. I can’t even begin to conceive of the shock she went through. Or the nightmares that has the potential to induce.
In the news world you cover a lot of grotesque stuff, but this was incredibly close to home. It’s technically no different from any other case of workplace violence, but it sure feels like it.