Yesterday I woke up ready for my past and present worlds to collide. Yesterday of all days. It blows my mind. An old news friend sent me a Facebook message recently asking about my new job as a Stroller Strides Instructor for FIT4MOM. She does a health and fitness segment each week and was wondering about coming to our class with her new baby and do a story. I couldn’t wait to see her and catch up. I was excited to get our team of instructors together and have all our fun moms share our class. As I pulled into the parking lot I got a push notification on my phone. I looked at it and had to catch my breath.
A reporter and a photographer at a station in Roanoke, VA were shot and killed on live television this morning. What!? I didn’t have time to read an article. I hopped out of the car and loaded the stroller. I was co-teaching the class, handling interviews and helping the crew.
I saw the photographer Chris and gave him a hug. It had been awhile. This brave man attached a GoPro camera to my stroller right at kid level. Bless him. They couldn’t wait to knock, shake or chew on his expensive equipment. I said, “Hey, did you hear about what happened in Virginia?!” He said that he had. We shared a knowing glance of shock at the news. I was excited to see Caitlin and her family. We put it out of our minds. We had work to do. I put on my “spokesperson” hat and did the interview and taught class.
Afterwards I got emotional. I fought back tears explaining to others what had happened. I kept it together for the kids. When I got home and started watching the coverage I lost it.
I lost it because I was Alison Parker. In my twenties I was excited to report the news in my hometown. Just like Alison I fell in love with a guy in the newsroom. Before I was a reporter I was a producer. Sometimes I was in the control room and watched my then-fiance out in the field as a sports reporter, much like Adam Ward’s fiancee did yesterday.
I can’t tell you how many early mornings I did stories just like the one Alison and Adam were covering. You know the ones. The revitalization/economic impact/local reservoir news stories. I did hundreds of them. We all did. We still do. I say “we” because even after you’ve been out of the business for awhile it is still a part of you. It always will be. I sent messages to former colleagues. I texted Mark, my early morning photographer for awhile. He was my “work little brother.” News people have this strange kinship. It’s like we’ve been to battle together so we’re sort of brethren forever.
So, how come I got to marry my newsroom sweetheart and they didn’t? How come I got to do what I wanted to do in my news career and walk away when I wanted to and they didn’t?
All of us have stories of a crazy former coworker who got axed for some reason or another. You know, they were that egotistical guy or girl who couldn’t take criticism and seemed like a loose cannon. They’re mad because someone got the promotion/better schedule over them. Whatever. It happens all the time. It’s a tough business. Awful hours. Disenfranchised people. No one goes into journalism to get rich. We all know this in J school! If you don’t learn those lessons in college, a mean News Director or scary EP will beat them into you. We all expect the weird loose cannon guy/girl to talk about how bad it was working at your station when they get to their next station, but shoot you during a live shot while interviewing the Chamber of Commerce representative?! Really?!
WDBJ likely doesn’t report from many war zones. Most of your local news crews don’t. Yes, we’re in some hazardous and potentially dangerous situations often. Now, it’s like this man made everywhere a war zone.
He committed murder in the sickest way possible. He documented it. He put it out on social media. Then in an act of someone who hasn’t been in a newsroom in awhile, he FAXED it to ABC News. I guess he made it to network. Via fax. Pathetic.
This isn’t about me or my past career. I know that, but I’m just so sad. I made Rice Krispie treats for the news crew Tuesday night to give them after class Wednesday. I joked that news people do better when “fed and watered.” How strange that it happened to be the day that I wanted to hug my former colleagues and thank them.
News people, stay strong. Stay safe. Keep your heads up. I already know you’ll do what you do best, eat free baked goods from the break room and keep risking your lives to tell the world’s stories. Thank you.