As a journalist based in Savannah, I have a small tie to the tragedy that happened yesterday in Virginia. The gunman reportedly worked at one of our TV stations, WTOC, and while I have no desire to do broadcast journalism, I know and work with some who do.
However, sitting in front of my computer at work on Wednesday, I felt such a raw connection to the story. I was watching it unfold. I will never forget the shock I got from clicking on the alleged gunman’s alleged Twitter feed and seeing it had been updated just three seconds ago. I figured it was a hoax but took a screencap and posted it to a Reddit thread. With one refresh the gunman admitted it was him. With another refresh the video of him shooting the reporter popped up and began to automatically play (thanks a lot, Twitter). I was so in shock I had to physically sit back from the computer; I never have reactions so visceral and physical, but I never have stumbled upon something so graphic and disturbing. I haven’t watched either video and I’m not sure if I ever will, though the gunman’s videos have rightfully been deleted from the Twitterverse.
The most disgusting thing about all of this is that it all went down the exact way the gunman wanted it. He went for the most media coverage possible, first by waiting until the camera was on Alison before shooting her and then by tweeting a video that evoked such emotion. And when he died, he did it in his blaze of glory. Before he died, everyone knew his name. He was the most talked-about person in America as he was dying. I find it sickening that we were able to do that for him. You’ll notice I haven’t used his name once because I don’t want to encourage behavior like that. Of course he’s dead now and doesn’t know what kind of attention he’s still receiving (especially with all the thinkpieces sure to come out, and posts not unlike these). But he admitted in his gross manifesto that he purchased his gun right after the Charleston shooting. We now have people emulating notorious shootings, and our country has a large selection pool already. This cycle could be never-ending. Somewhere, a disturbed person could be inspired by this gunman’s actions and be working on his own plan to go out in a blaze of glory.
I’d like to share this article about how media outlets should be covering mass shootings like this. It was written a year ago but I find it to be relevant still. One article can’t change the way our media covers shootings, but I would sure like to see it implemented before we have a pissing contest about whose shooting can be bigger and better.
Can we open up that gun control/mental health reform/race relations discussion again?
Godspeed to Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and condolences to their loved ones.