“…the dogfight in your own backyard…”

Alison Parker interviewing Vicki Gardner, just before the shooting.

Alison Parker interviewing Vicki Gardner, just before the shooting.

Such sad news, and such a sad week for local television news.

I never thought of my job on local TV as being  a particularly dangerous occupation.  Decades ago, when I started out as an idealistic young reporter, I was just a starry-eyed kid working in small-market TV, one of the lowest paid jobs I’d ever had, before or since.  In those days, before the advent of the internet, I remember being concerned in a few instances, and I remember worrying a bit about a couple of weirdos who wrote letters or called me at the station.

But I rarely sensed any real danger at all.

I doubt a couple of young TV professionals in Roanoke, Virginia, sensed danger on Wednesday, August 26, just before they were gunned down by a former coworker.  AT WDBJ in Roanoke, the day began with the kind of story that is fodder for many early morning local TV shows across the country.  Reporter Alison Parker and camera-man Adam Ward were live on the air, interviewing an area woman about the fiftieth anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, a popular local sporting and sunbathing reservoir.  That kind of story and others like it make up the daily mundane fare that fills the early time slots of local news shows.

Years ago, I remember a former colleague, at that time already a grizzled TV veteran remarking to me, “No story is as interesting as the dogfight in your own backyard.” Of course, he was referencing the tendency toward providing the audience with hyper-local news for residents of area communities. Alison and Adam were at work doing just that when they were tragically gunned down by an apparently deranged and disgruntled former news colleague.  I didn’t know them personally, though we shared the kinship of working at different times in local television news. Nevertheless, my heart grieves for their family, friends, and colleagues in the TV industry.

And, as always, I hearken back to my own memories, and those of a former professional colleague whose disappearance and presumed murder have not yet been solved.  The horror of what happened to Jodi Huisentruit in Mason City, Iowa, twenty years ago this summer is mirrored  this summer in Roanoke, Virginia.

Rest in peace, Alison Parker and Adam Ward.