E. Eugene Webb PhD
Recently, the tragedy of all tragedies happened in Orlando when a local news reporter, and his camera man were shot during an active shooter incident. The reporter was killed, and his cameraman seriously injured.
I have commented before about the over aggressive approach of local news media, especially the television news media as they cover news events.
I approach this issue with some first-hand information.
Although it's been more decades than I would like to admit, in the last part of my senior year in high school and the first two years of my undergraduate college work, I was employed part-time by a local radio station and part of my duties was to drive the local news unit on weekends.
That was a long time ago, but it brought back memories of the fact that even in this small northern Indiana town I was frequently on the scene of accidents and events shortly after they happened. Oftentimes before local law enforcement or first responders arrived.
Our station control room was equipped with police scanners and radio monitors as was the mobile news unit, so we were essentially dispatched simultaneously with law enforcement. Even then there was some desire on the part of our news director to be early on the scene. Keep in mind that was a long time ago and people weren't shooting each other then. We mostly covered traffic accidents, fires, and things of that nature.
It's time for local television assignment editors and news directors to take a new look at dispatching reporters, especially young aspiring reporters two events like active shooter events.
It used to be law enforcement would set perimeters around crime scenes and generally keep the news media at a safe distance.
With the continuing clamor from news organizations and the demand from the public for real time news, law enforcement is more reluctant to refuse reporters access to events fearing the repercussions.
These active shooter events, are much more like war zones than the typical traffic accident or other news event.
This incident should be a wakeup call for all local media. Before you dispatch your news reporters and camera crews to an active shooter event, someone a little higher up in the organization should probably be consulted.
Oftentimes the adrenaline takes precedence over common sense when it comes to breaking news.
Wearing a hat or a jacket with your news organization’s logo on it or having a big press pass hanging around your neck does not necessarily afford you the protection that it may once have.
In a society and culture quickly going off the rails, it's not that big of a stretch to think that the guy or gal with the camera or the microphone might become the next target of opportunity.
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