Post Classifieds

A Live Shot Should Get Their Attention

How poor broadcasting practices put reporters at risk

By Annie Banda
On September 20, 2015

Now deceased Vester Lee Flanagan had the full intention to avenge himself. And he had many things to avenge, such as his dignity, sense of worth and career. However, even though the undeniable evidence clearly revealed him to be the murderer in this dreadful incident, the evidence was only briefly stacked against him due to the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head that eliminated any chance of a trial.

There’s a spider-web full of different, thought-provoking theories as to why this particular tragedy happened. And in this year’s already long list of unfortunate events, it is this specific moment in time where the following components that make this misfortune quite distinct among the rest.

For one, the news style and direction that was taken with this story leading up to the live coverage were not, well, news. It was 6 a.m. and the coverage was supposed to mix up some “stacks” in the morning show in WDBJ7’s time slots; essentially, it was to act as a mindless and light, soft form of entertainment a for time of day that is usually devoid of viewers and substantial news.

After all, news casting does have a considerable element of entertainment weaved in; make up, lights, camera-ready faces and a smile to greet viewers that makes this medium visual and profitable.

Communication professor Sandra Gin touched on how we are affected by this national catastrophe and how we believe the necessity of shooting live was questionable on that morning.

Gin said some news directors have demanded reporters to be live on the scene in the past twenty years. An innocuous and dull location like a water-park doesn’t share the same appeal as a fire or a hostage. This coverage of more a serious and urgent matter that would require the necessity of an up-to-date, live coverage.

“I had always questioned, just as an individual, and I think my colleagues agree with me, the value of using a live shot,” Gin said, “Why are we doing live for live’s sake?” That has always been my problem.”

This got me thinking about how sensational a lot of “news” tends to be on my own local television stations. Fortunately, most reporters are not injured or killed on duty. A good portion of coverage I view happens to be light-hearted information that doesn’t necessarily have to be highlighted.

Why is this so?

Why is a large amount of local news coverage carry an immense sense of played up entertainment for viewer’s sake?

This led me to reflect on our society’s innate nature to be constantly satisfied with what is being presented to us all the time, and how it’s normalized in 2015 for local news stations to just throw any story on air even if the validity of the story is or isn’t sound, so that they can be ensured they are getting the most eyeballs viewing their channel and the most funding for their station. Producers and news directors will pull any trick up their sleeve to satisfy the general public need for news, even if it technically isn’t.

Then supplement that fact with an innocent Alison Parker and Adam Ward (and Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce who is, far as I know, well and recovering from her injuries) simply doing their job with a smile and excitement in their blood. However, the peculiar happenstance of a troubled mind not in a right, healthy place leaves us with a rather unbelievable result. Feeling as she had been stunningly affected by this incident and willing to reveal her own response to the news, Prof. Gin delved into how working in news reporting and journalism caused the shooting to “hit close to home.” When she went to social media after the live shooting, Prof. Gin read a Facebook post written by a past colleague that summed up the grief everyone in the business was feeling:

“The reason it hit home so closely is that, although many of us are either out of television or retired, because we identify with those two young journalists because we were once young journalists,” Gin said. “Hoping for a chance. Doing everything that was asked of us, whether doing a live shot that wasn’t really necessary or going out in the field that was risky…it was for the job. It didn’t happen in New York or LA. It happened in a small, little town in Roanoke, a small market where most young journalists get their start. They serve about one to two years then they’re gone and they make it to the big cities! So that’s why it’s a shame because it snuffed out these lives so quickly.”

Though, most news broadcasts are without incident and just about everyone goes about their mornings drinking coffee and possibly chuckling at corny jokes reporters/anchor men and women make. Life tends to steadily go on but it is situations like the WDBJ7 live shooting that wakes America up from life’s trance and reminds us that those are too people with hopes and dreams and love-lives just as valuable as ours. Their untimely death reminds us, Americans, students and fellow human beings, that we’re living and life can be taken away from us at any dear moment.

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