CRAWFORD | On the Virginia TV shootings: Remember the fallen, fo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | On the Virginia TV shootings: Remember the fallen, forget the shooter

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — We’re in this place again. I’d rather be writing about football. But it’s best, I think, to lay that aside for a minute.

I’m watching news coverage of Wednesday’s tragic event in Roanoke, Va., the on-air murder of a news reporter and news photographer from WDBJ Television, the violence carried out with a legally purchased Glock 9mm pistol, recorded by the gunman himself on a GoPro camera and later posted to social media.

If you saw that footage, on purpose or accidentally, it’s still with you.

I’m listening to pundits go back and forth over racism, over mental health, over this guy’s life, his background, his 23-page faxed manifesto to news agencies, his motives.

I understand that. I’m part of the media. We all want to understand. We try to shed light on these things. I believe the intentions are good, to try to help people comprehend what has happened, and why. But it’s always the same. The lives of the victims, we talk about for a few days. The names of the murderers and their stories we remember even longer.

I want to share an opinion — and it is only that, my opinion. It’s not on behalf of this station, or any other news organization. I’m sure many will differ with me. And that’s all right. Just call it a rant.

In this case, just as with the horrific shootings in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, I don’t care what this guy says his problems were. Nothing in his past — and I’m not saying he didn’t have difficulty — can justify shooting three innocent people in cold blood. There’s no problem he had that can adequately explain what he did. He didn’t just jump on Twitter and publicly bad-mouth these journalists, and a woman they were interviewing. He shot them all, and posted the video on Twitter. Social media itself, and the live nature of the broadcast, all figured into his plan of attack.

For me, there is nothing in the actions of this shooter (nor most shooters) that merits an airing of his concerns with society on every news show in the nation. Nothing.

His actions, in my mind, render his views on those things worthless, not even worth the airtime it takes to discuss them. He told news organizations that he was sent over the edge by the massacre in Charleston, S.C., in June, when nine African-American church members were killed by a white assailant.

So were we all. So was any person with any kind of humanity about them, of every race. I was so appalled by it that, despite several attempts, I couldn't write about it.

The rest of us didn’t put down a deposit on a handgun because of it. We didn’t put atrocities on our calendar. We didn’t decide to mimic the same kind of violence that we said tore us up.

There are people in the world who have suffered real injustice, who lived through the Holocaust, who suffered through Apartheid, who faced direct and inexcusable injustice in this country, who even battle mental illnesses of all kinds daily, who responded not by taking up arms but by speaking out of love for justice and peace. If we need a message, if we need a lesson, there are plenty of places to turn without going to some deluded shooter. I understand there are frustrations out there, many of them absolutely real and legitimate and worth exploring — but not because some guy goes on a shooting spree.

This guy wanted to be seen. 

The sensational act of a killer doing his work on live television will capture the attention of the public for some time. And it should give us pause. The desire to make a public show of these murders was part of this shooter’s planning. These were murders enacted, at least in part, for social media. That the victims were on live television played a role, too. This event isn’t the fault of social media any more than it is the fault of live television, but its role in these actions can’t be denied. And that role is troubling.

This guy, as best I can tell, wanted more than anything to be on television, and when he was fired from a TV station he started to unravel. Wednesday night, he was wall-to-wall on networks everywhere, broadcast and cable. They were debating his work troubles and his frustrations.

I don’t need it. I don’t need to know why this guy did what he did. I don't need to see his face on a dozen channels. His view of the world was so warped that to try to make sense of it is a futile endeavor, and the fame he achieved in his despicable act does as much to inspire the next tragedy as to prevent it.

Forget him. Forget his birth name and his assumed name and his TV name and his Twitter handle. Pay no attention to his screwed-up view of the world that wasn’t the fault of his parents, of his past employers, his co-workers, the media or our society, troubled though it might be.

Forget him.

Remember the fallen, 24-year-old WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old news photographer Adam Ward, who didn’t know that this routine story would be their last.

Remember their families and co-workers, including Jeff Marks, general manager of television station WDBJ, who worked at WHAS Radio and television here for some time and not long ago was inducted into Kentucky’s Journalism Hall of Fame. He has been tasked with providing a steady hand in a nightmare situation, and has done just that.

Including these two on Wednesday, 49 journalists have been killed around the world this year. I think of my colleagues who were out doing their job, on live shots like always Wednesday and today. Rachel Collier of WDRB took to Facebook Wednesday to say, “In news, you know the potential danger of covering active murder scenes, gas leaks, severe weather. Being gunned down on a morning liveshot? Unimaginable and horrifying. This is unsettling, upsetting, and hits way too close to home. My prayers go out to the families and news family affected by this senseless violence.” Remember all of them.

Remember those killed who don’t provide sensational video for the evening news. Nothing can diminish the tragedy of two young journalists killed on the job. And I say that as a fellow journalist. But we also should not forget that every day, people are shot in just as cold-blooded a manner all over America, without the cameras rolling, without the network news crews showing up.

Their deaths are just as tragic.

And finally this. The problem of senseless gun violence isn’t going away. Our nation is gearing up to turn 240 years old next year, but 25 of the 27 worst mass shootings in our history have happened in the past 35 years, including one in our own city.

I want to share with you an exchange I just watched on CNN, but it could’ve happened anywhere. The interviewer is Chris Cuomo, and his guest is Jim Gilmore, a former governor of Virginia and current Republican candidate for President of the United States.

CUOMO: “The questions persist. Why did this happen? How do you prevent it the next time? How do you heal? Let’s bring in someone with perspective on this state and these problems, Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia and Republican presidential candidate. Governor, I’ve talked to you before, I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances right now, and my question to you is an obvious one: What do we do after a situation like this? We see them repeated around the country, different families, different communities, bearing the scars of the same type of senseless violence. What do we do?”

GILMORE: “Chris it is an awful tragedy, the death of these two wonderful young people. And you really have to focus on the loss of the families and friends who have come forward and expressed this loss, and you can’t go back. Once a person is gone, they’re gone. And it’s a terrible loss and a terrible tragedy. But we’re not going to let this madman take away the lawful rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. We’re going to stand up for the Second Amendment. But to answer your question, the time has come to turn our attention to mental health.”

Did you catch that? After expressing sympathy, and with no one having even brought it up, this politician pivoted immediately to a defense of the Second Amendment.

I don’t need the dissection of the gunman’s feelings, and I don’t need the political pivot.

I’m not getting into a gun discussion here. It’s doubtful that there’s any gun law you could pass in this country that would’ve denied this particular shooter access to buying a weapon. His background showed little more than hot-headedness and some social media rants. He had no criminal record. That’s the profile of a lot of people.

I get it. Guns don’t kill people. Bad guys with guns kill people. (Though I do believe a bad guy with a gun can kill a lot more people — a lot more effectively and quickly — than one with a knife, or a baseball bat, or a hammer.)

Guns don’t kill people, bad guys with guns kill people. I’ll keep repeating that to myself. But right now in this country, I’m afraid we have a surplus of both, and a great shortage of leadership willing to deal with either one.

Remember that.

Forget the shooter. Fifteen minutes of infamy shouldn’t be a reward for taking life.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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