Thursday, August 25, 2016

All Lives Have Meaning

A year passed since reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed on the job in Virginia that sparked high emotions in newsrooms nationwide.

Stories that hit close to home always hurt the most, whether you’re a reader, viewer or member of the media. Our lives in the media aren't much different than anyone else's life. We aren’t perfect either. We cry too. Some of us pray. We bleed. We die on the job. Our number one job-related death is murder. Our lives matter too.

WDBJ7 Reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed on the job on Aug. 26, 2015. 
It’s always hard when you lose one of your own, even if you didn’t know them personally. Police officers, firefighters and military service members feel that pain with line of duty deaths. Each group shares a bond, a second family, that can only be understood by those in that vocation.

The WDBJ7 TV station, where Allison and Adam worked, was among the many media outlets to report on their deaths. You could hear the pain in our voices when we talked about the loss of our own as members of the media. It was in the back of our minds as we worked that warm August day that it could happen to us. We stayed strong together. Many of us reached out to friends in the media and entertainment business and encouraged safety. We are cautious on assignments. Despite that, we don’t always see the potential dangers around us.
Unfortunately some of my past and present co-workers don’t think of journalism as a dangerous job. I think it’s important for reporters to acknowledge and for the public to know. We go where first-responders go. Members of the media go to the scene of the story, even into unsafe areas to report breaking news. As a journalist I have been on scene of riots, protests, bomb threats, shootings, hazmat incidents, building fires, car accidents and more.

When I joined the fire service I learned about something valuable that applies to many areas in life: situational awareness. Simply put, it means being aware of your surroundings and looking for potential hazards to mitigate. In journalism, our idea of situational awareness is looking around you to describe the setting for your story. It gives the reader a sense of who is being interviewed or featured.

Being safe in journalism is similar to being safe in firefighting, according to my late editor who simply said “go in, get out, go home.” By home, he meant the fire station or the newsroom, and then later to your actual home.

“I came, I saw, I filed,” Editor Jim Callahan said in reference to writing a story and submitting it.

Reporters go out on assignments, many that we want to, and some because we have to go. When we go into the field, we have the same end goal that police, firefighters, EMS, etc. all have –you’re always doing your best to come home safely. The sad reality is we’re not all going to get that chance. And no one wants to be another statistic. We average 100 firefighter line of duty deaths, and had 63,350 injuries in 2014 according to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). According to the National Law Enforcement Officers memorial fund, there have been 75 line of duty deaths so far this year, the same amount as in 2015. 

We all hope it doesn’t happen to us or our brothers and sisters. When you hope and pray for the safety of the first-responders and those involved in an incident, remember the media because we go too.

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