By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The WDBJ video: To air or not to air?


On Wednesday, a disgruntled former employee of Roanoke, Virginia-based WDBJ-TV fatally shot two of the station’s journalists as they were conducting a live interview. The cameraman captured part of the scene before dying. I asked my Twitter followers: Should the video be shown or not? I’ve assembled their answers on Storify, so please have a look.

In asking my followers for their views, I was referring strictly to the video shot by cameraman Adam Ward. Even though he had been fatally wounded, he managed to keep rolling as the gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan II, shot him and reporter Alison Parker. CNN and many other news outlets showed all or part of Ward’s footage.

Later, footage shot by Flanagan himself popped up on his Twitter account under the name of his his on-air pseudonym, Bryce Williams. I managed to see it before Twitter suspended his account. It is far more harrowing than Ward’s video, and I don’t believe any news organization used it. (Update: The New York Daily News uses images from the Flanagan video on its front page today. I’m not going to link to it.)

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  1. Terry Kelliher

    NO,NO,NO enough it surves no purpose

  2. Christopher Mele

    Re: The last line of your blog post. Did you see the NY Daily News cover? Or at least the one it was promoting last night on Twitter?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Christopher: I added a parenthetical update near the top of the Storify — perhaps after you read it.

  3. Ken Rowland

    One thought on “The WDBJ video: To air or not to air?” Yes! The ‘WDBJ video’ as filmed by shooting victim Adam Ward was a NEWS-CLIP, sadly captured while Adam was doing his job. He also managed, inadvertently, or perhaps heroically, to capture a facial-image of his assailant as he fled. At that point Adam Ward’s video capture is newsworthy AND evidentiary. It needed to be played on all news outlets and as an assistance to law enforcement as the assailant had not yet been captured. Prior to this, as the alleged perpetrator mounts social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, et al — with both a “personal-SELFIE” of his act of violence, alleged ‘suicide notes’, statements purporting revenge, etc. he then moves HIMSELF into the video world of ‘self-aggrandizement’, ‘self-serving’ macabre-info/entertainment. This is NOT NEWS but autobiographical and to be edited, summarized, tagged and labeled at a later date. The latter should not be treated as news, and controlled from dissemination wherever possible. It is propaganda of the worst possible, tragic kind. Upon its posting it is but ‘third-party’ hearsay, evidentiary information perhaps, but having no place in the immediacy of a news-stream of any sort however topical it may appear. The unfortunate open-door of both FB, Twitter, and other social media platforms may not ‘catch’ such ‘selfies’ prior to launch, but more could be done to eliminate their ‘auto-launch’, the software tweak designed there-in to capture eyeballs for ALL video feeds, as if in a analog-print medium where, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Here then, again the news-source just grinds to the banality of “gotcha”. The ‘Dailies’ (the Tabs), NYC, others… pandered to that level.

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