Local news director on Virginia killings: ‘This one hit close to home’

During an Atlanta Press Club luncheon on Wednesday, news directors at the four local stations echoed the same theme after the tragic shooting of two news employees in Virginia on live TV Wednesday: sadness with a reminder of vigilance for any journalists on location.

“This one hit close to home,” said Jennifer Rigby, news director at NBC affiliate 11 Alive (WXIA-TV), at the Commerce Club on Wednesday soon after suspect Vester Flanagan shot himself after the killings of WDBJ-TV’s Adam Ward and Alison Parker. “I do hold a little concern about a copycat. This person was determined to get attention. He posted video. He tweeted on his own Twitter account. … We have to be vigilant.”

Mike Dreaden, news director at Channel 2 Action News as part of the ABC affiliate (WSB-TV), said staff discussed the situation at the early morning meeting. “We’ve had cases where crews have been held up and equipment stolen,” he said. “We are already conscious of security issues. We are out here and visible and easy to identify. This reminds you how careful you have to be.”

While trying to report a story in San Francisco earlier this summer, news crews from two Bay Area television stations were robbed and a cameraman was pistol-whipped.

Larry Perret, news director at CBS46 (WGCL-TV) in Atlanta, said he sent a note to staff Wednesday morning reminding camera crews to leave a scene if they don’t feel comfortable. “We just want to emphasize to be on guard,” he said.

On social media, local TV journalists expressed shock and condolences. Lisa Rayam, a reporter and anchor at Fox 5 (WAGA-TV), posted a note on Facebook and Twitter: “Love the people God gave you because He will need them back.”

Gloria Neal, a CBS46 morning host, wrote on Facebook: “For those who are journalists, it takes courage to be who you are. Stay strong. Proud to be among you.”

Also on Facebook, WSB posted a note with a photo of the two victims to WDBJ in Roanoke: “Prayers in our newsroom to yours. They were just doing their jobs. Our hearts break for you.”

WSB and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both part of Cox Media Group.

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