BLOG: News crew slayings offer lessons for us all

BLOG: News crew slayings offer lessons for us all

It's 2:00 in the morning and I am recalling the past 20 hours of history as it unfolded from an epicenter we know as Roanoke, Virginia. A sudden and tragic loss of life, times two has occurred.  Young lives, both headed toward future goals with ambitions of success, now suddenly gone from our world.

In my profession, we are expected to step into harms way.  But journalists, working in a peacetime environment, are not. I too morn this loss of life. Anyone who has spent time on either side of a television camera pictured ourselves in their shoes, Alison and Adam's, at that terrifying moment. For a day, the Fourth Estate cried together.

I now find myself, in this new world of innocence lost, attempting to push beyond the event, and extract from tragedy some way that others may become safer.  Call it a tribute, so we may lean from their loss.


As a wise reporter once told me, there is no story worth dying for.  While all field reporters must go out there every day and do their job, you must keep your role in this world in perspective.  I recently heard of the driver of a "live truck" traveling 60 miles per hour in a 25 MPH speed zone while on the way to cover another neighborhood shooting.  Consider risk versus reward and do not jeopardize your life or others needlessly.  This leads me to my next point.


In an era where budget cuts are everywhere, it is not uncommon for reporters to be sent out on their own to cover a story.  This makes a situation where reporter and camera operator become one.  But do you truly need to be "alone"?  I say no.  Look at your options.  If you feel uncomfortable, take your cell phone and call someone.  Give them your location, etc. and keep the phone line open during your interview.  If there is a problem, someone is aware and able to call for help.  Another option is asking for help.  Many locations where news interviews occur have security officers on duty at that location.  What's wrong with, "Excuse me officer, would you mind hanging out with me for a few minutes and just keep an eye out for me.  Thanks for watching my back."  It doesn't even need to be an officer, just someone standing there that you're  getting a good vibe from can be helpful.


All the knowledge about personal safety and security I can give you will be of absolutely no help if you don't take the time and effort to use it.  Such is the case with this next piece of advice.   Just before you immerse yourself into the interview or camera, take 10 seconds and look around your area.  A full 360 degrees.  See anything that makes you uneasy?  If you do, understand that that's your gut instinct telling you something isn't right.  Listen to that little voice inside you, because that is the survival instinct that thousands of years of evolution as a species has produced in us.


A reporters job mandates that you must remain focused on your interview and on your camera.  That will never change.  But in being vigilant, if you see someone suspicious (see above) and you just do not feel comfortable, be willing to move to another location, even if it is a block away.  If that same someone reappears, then that becomes a suspicious person situation and warrants a call to 911.

Yesterday someone asked me if I believe that news crews should take security with them on every story.  I do not believe that's the proper response to this issue, any more than I believe that news crews are more in danger today than they were last week.   What I do believe is that regardless of your profession, ultimately you must take responsibility for your own safety.

Be aware of your surroundings, keep your head on a swivel and stay alert.  You never know what the next assignment may bring.

Alison and Adam, where ever you are, thank you for the motivation to share this information with others. Your passing was not in vain.

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