Black Journalists Reportedly Threatened After On-Air Shooting of 2 White Reporters in Virginia

The Choir of Kingdom Life Ministries of Roanoke perform during an interfaith service to commemorate the lives of WDBJ-TV reporters Alison Parker and Adam Ward at the Jefferson Center in Shaftman Performance Hall in Roanoke, Va., Aug. 30, 2015.  STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS/GETTY IMAGES
The Choir of Kingdom Life Ministries of Roanoke perform during an interfaith service to commemorate the lives of WDBJ-TV reporters Alison Parker and Adam Ward at the Jefferson Center in Shaftman Performance Hall in Roanoke, Va., Aug. 30, 2015.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS/GETTY IMAGES

Black journalists in Roanoke, Va., were threatened after the Aug. 26 shooting in which black former journalist Vester Lee Flanagan shot and killed a reporter and a photographer doing a live shot, and then killed himself, the news director at Roanoke’s WDBJ-TV said Saturday. 

One African American reporter from WDBJ-TV and another from the competing WSLS-TV were reporting in the aftermath of the shooting incident when a man in a pickup truck formed his hand like a gun, pointed it at the reporters and called out the name of the shooter, Kelly Zuber, WDBJ-TV news director, told journalists at the Excellence in Journalism convention in Orlando.

The reporter from WSLS-TV, whom she did not name, wrote down the license plate of the man in the pickup truck. The station secured a restraining order against him, Zuber said. The reporter in question sent word through a colleague that he did not want to discuss the incident or speak with Journal-isms.

“We continue to get threats to our newsroom,” Zuber told the 8 a.m. gathering of members of the Radio Television Digital News Association, Society of Professional Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

“One against an African American reporter who had just joined” two weeks prior was “as racist as you could possibly get,” she said.

The session, “WDBJ Shooting: A Tragedy Unfolds in Real Time,” was a late addition to the conference, which drew about 1,540 people, Sarah Beck, bookkeeper of the Society of Professional Journalists, told Journal-isms on Sunday. Alberto B. Mendoza, NAHJ executive director, said there were “nearly 600” NAHJ members.

Moderated by Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” the WDBJ panel included Mark Luckie, former manager of journalism and news at Twitter, Zuber and Scott Libin, RTDNA ethics committee chairman. Because the shooting happened at her news organization, Zuber said, her station was both news outlet and victim, giving her a different perspective on crime stories.

Now, Zuber said, she wonders, “what would happen if we had the victims of crimes write the stories.” The killer, known on the air as Bryce Williams, “produced his own crime,” in Libin’s words, by videotaping the shooting and posting it. Zuber said she now wonders about people “sitting in the basement playing it over and over and planning” their own crimes.

After the incident, Zuber declared WDBJ’s newsroom off-limits to outside reporters. “The newsroom was our sanctuary, the place where we could hold each other and cry,” she said.

To avoid alerting would-be criminals, the station no longer announces to viewers where it intends to send its reporters, Zuber said.

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Source: The Root | RICHARD PRINCE

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