It’s been two days since the Gilroy Garlic Festival massacre in California, which means the cable news cameras have switched off, the floodlights have been packed away and reporters nationwide are catching flights home. Not photographer Robert Eliason, a freelance photographer for three local newspapers, including the Gilroy Dispatch. When news of the shooting broke, he raced to a hospital where victims were taken, into a swirl of paramedics, police officers, nurses and flashing emergency lights. He then observed what the Washington Post calls “the familiar tenor of other mass shootings and the media coverage that follows it … a flood of reporters crowding in to capture the agony for a global audience, only to disappear just as quickly.”
In an area where festivalgoers had marshaled to reunite with family, reporters gathered to nab vivid stories of survival. Eliason said the area was so jam-packed with cable news cameras and bright lights that it looked like a “movie set.” While shooting photos at a crowded news conference, he said another journalist asked him to move to make room for his tripod. “And I tell that guy and anyone else who will listen that this is my [expletive] town. That I know people who were out there. That students I have followed on the field who had volunteered to work the Festival had ended up running for their lives.” Eliason saw one woman being asked a dizzying set of questions, he said, and at one point she had enough. “She said, ‘I can’t talk anymore,’ begging to be left alone, and the cameras were unrelenting,” he said.