While we had initially intended to tackle the notion of political correctness and the trend on college campuses in dropping the label “freshman” for “first years” (we’re looking at you Trinity), the shocking and disturbing news of the deaths of two WDBJ reporters in Virginia quickly jerked us back into the harsh reality outside of our own university bubble. The brutal shooting left us speechless and deeply saddened; it is with heavy hearts that our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
While recent events like Charlie Hebdo have reminded us the danger of the practice, no one thinks, as a journalist covering a story out of western Virginia, that they will be gunned down in the streets while doing what they love. Attacks on newspapers and journalists are often perpetrated in the name of various values and beliefs (notably religion and race), but the attack Wednesday rings even more hollow and meaningless; as journalists ourselves, and within our ranks a fellow Virginian, the attack hits us at our cores. With our heads and hearts weighed down with grief, we can only look upon ourselves, and must begin to evaluate the desire and strength of our own convictions in being journalists. Criticisms of our society’s media and its effectiveness, saturation and transparency aside, to be a journalist reflects a fundamental desire to seek the truth and report it, to be a bastion of the first amendment and to be, at our best, a voice for the voiceless.
Words cannot begin to explain the sadness which with we received the news. And yet while the attack brings with it grief, pain and suffering it fuels in us the pride and conviction to be the best journalists and truth seekers we can be, not only in our practice but also in our everyday lives. To take the lives of those who are simply striving to live their lives and do what they love is beyond cowardly; it’s downright reprehensible. And it’s for that reason that in this editorial, so far, and for the rest of its duration, we will withhold the name of the killer. Instead, we will celebrate the all too short lives of the victims, reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward. Often times, in cases past and likely cases near, the reporting of the killer takes precedent over the victims. While it is important to analyze and explore the underlying issues in such attacks, the killer him or herself is often the focus, with, in this case, fellow journalists searching for cause, motive or background on the individual. While it is within reason to search for a cause in such a meaningless killing, the time to do so is not now. We should instead focus not on those who pulled the trigger, but think about and grieve for the victims, their families and their fellow colleagues.
As time elapsed it became increasingly evident that the focus was strictly on the killer, notably on sites like CNN and the New York Times, with his name smeared across headlines and taking up the focus of the first half of almost every article. A brief look into other non-American sites like BBC showed a stark contrast, with headlines and descriptions lacking any names at all. And while it is hard to criticize publications like these for simply tending to their readers desire for quick and comprehensive information, the concern comes with how quickly we seem to forget the realness of the story; that two journalists, age 24 and 27 were murdered and will never get a chance to report, live, laugh or love anymore.
We aren’t asking that American media and news refrain from publishing such killers’ names or photos (we ourselves did it in our short news brief on page 2); we are simply asking that those with even a shred of empathy not sensationalize what isn’t important here. We all agree that such killings, and those responsible for them, are reprehensible. That itself is enough time spent dwelling on the killers.
We can hold meaningful conversations on how they got their weapons or their mental health status without stooping to be slaves to our desire for a catchy headline and the most views. Doing so sees the victims fade into obscurity when we should be working to help cherish their lives and rebuild broken communities the best we can. We here at the Trinitonian remain dedicated and steadfast to our passion for journalism and, again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and everyone affected by this tragedy.