Thank You, WDBJ

Images of Adam Ward, top, and Alison Parker, were supplied by Dave Walton of JVC. “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy at WDBJ7. About a year ago Alison and Adam graciously provided us with these images.” Their murder during a live on-air report deeply affected many throughout the television industry.
Scholarship funds are established in their memory. Information about donating is available on WDBJ’s Website.

I’m supposed to write about science and policy; dry stuff that glazes eyes over.

I’m not supposed to write about two young journalists getting gunned down on live television. Two twenty-somethings doing a tourism piece in small-town America.

No one is ever supposed to write about that.

No one is ever supposed to see murder perpetrated on live TV.

No one is ever supposed to see the footage of it race across the Internet like a wildfire.

No one is ever supposed to get in front of a camera and announce that their colleagues have been murdered in the course of doing their job, as WDBJ president and general manager, Jeff Marks, did.

“You send people into a war zone and into dangerous places, riots, and you’re afraid they’re going to get hurt,” he said. “You send people out to do a story on tourism, how can you expect this to happen?”

Marks and the WDBJ staff, in a remarkably balanced display of professionalism, grief and respect, soldiered through that terrible day, following the story that left their two young colleagues dead.

They then became the story when national news teams showed up. The distraught fiancé, clutching a photo album to his chest. The paternal Marks, his pained expression. A man well into his career, surrounded by dynamic young reporters, just starting out in theirs.

All because of someone with a broken mind and hurt feelings.

How could Marks have known? How could anyone have known that somewhere down the street, a sad man was slowly going insane.

The shots that rang out Wednesday morning in Moneta, Va., reverberated throughout the world, and certainly throughout the television industry. Perhaps because of an affinity for the news business. Or perhaps because the images of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the reporter and videographer who were murdered, revealed such warm and joyful human beings. The type of young people you want your children to become. The days of young adulthood when everything is still possible.

May this not pass in vain.

May we all bear witness to the comport of Marks and the WDBJ staff in the aftermath of the shooting and be reminded that journalists don’t have “jobs.” They have a responsibility.

Thank you to the staff at WDBJ in Roanoke, Va., for showing the world what it means to be a journalist in a country where the practice is considered vital to democracy. Thank you for reminding the world what a call to action in the newsroom really means, and how all else is put aside in the name of reporting the news.

Thank you for doing it with such dignity, and with such an honest display of genuine humanity. Tears were appropriate. The images and sentiments you shared on social media helped us all transition from disbelief into grief. Even in this way, you continued to be outstanding journalists. You allowed us to witness the impact of tragedy in a way seldom seen. Not just the typical pictures of perpetrator and victims, but the tidal wave of agony brought about by violence.

You may not know right now how strong you are, but the rest of the world does.

So thank you, because we will remember that day and their lives when we need to; when we need to soldier on rather than curl up on the floor and cry.

And thank you beyond words for bringing such honor to your industry. We salute you, we grieve with you, and we thank you so very, very much.