Virginia Killing Of Two Journalists Offer Lessons For Newsrooms

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Several lessons from the murders of two Virginia journalists were offered by Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, a journalist training organization. The job of journalism involves risk and danger, he notes, but the incident should not stop journalists from going out into the public and hearing what people have to say to us. Newsrooms should assess how much risk they expose their journalists to every day. Tompkins says he is “especially concerned about the large number of one-man-band journalists who wade into crowds and confront people who would rather not talk. A journalist with a camera is a target. A journalist with a camera working alone is an easy target.”

Newsroom bosses should see what they are asking of their employees, he says, adding, “It is easy to ask people to confront danger when you have no idea what you are asking of them. Tompkins says it is time to rethink whether every liveshot should be on a delay. There was no reason to think that Wednesday’s liveshot in Virginia would turn into a double murder. Still, liveshots should be delayed just in case, Tompkins says. It’s time to use delays, “not just when you are covering a hostage standoff or a car chase. Whole YouTube channels now show collections of reporters being insulted, assaulted and kissed while trying to do their jobs live on the air. Profanity and nudity is quite common, and we shrug it off with a ‘who knew that would happen’ look,” he says. “Delay the shot like radio stations routinely put live callers on delay.

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