Days after reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot by a former coworker on live television, the station's general manager said the network will be implementing security and safety changes to its live news coverage.
"The plan going forward is to look at each live opportunity separately and make the proper decisions," Jeff Marks, general manager of WDBJ, a local CBS affiliate based in Roanoke, Virginia, said on CNN's Reliable Sources.
It is common on many television news stations for reporters to film live coverage with one camera person, or sometimes even by themselves, Reliable Sources host Brian Steiter explained on air, suggesting that this may make reporters more vulnerable to harm.
Marks said he did not want to reveal how many people WDBJ management were now planning to have on each live shot "because there are crazy people out there and I think it's best if we keep our plans to ourselves." However, he said he believed the discussion about security happening at WDBJ7 is probably also going on in every other newsroom in the country that routinely does live broadcasts in public.
Toward the end of the CNN interview Marks grew tearful as he spoke about how talented his reporters were: "If you had 1,000 job candidates in front of you and you had to pick two," Marks said, "those were the two you would pick out."
Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were gunned down by former WBJ7 colleague Vester Lee Flanagan II, known as Bryce Williams on television, during a live television interview Wednesday morning.
While driving away from the crime scene, Flanagan posted videos he had filmed of the murders on his social media accounts. After being surrounded by police, he shot himself and died later in a hospital.
Both Parker and Ward were in romantic relationships with colleagues at the small local news station and were valued members of Roanoke's community.
Parker had recently moved in with her boyfriend Chris Hurst, the station’s 6 o’clock news anchor, who called Parker “the most radiant woman I ever met.”
Ward was engaged to Melissa Ott, a WDBJ morning show producer. According to his Facebook page, the two were to be married next summer.
Marks told Steiter that he has just seen Ott on Saturday night. “She was in amazing shape," he said, "supported by friends and family at an informal gathering that some of our employees did."
Hurst has been more "front and center," Marks said, referring to the numerous interviews the anchor has done, as well as the photos and thoughts he has shared on social media remembering Parker.
Two funeral services will take place for Ward on will take place next week: one in Roanoke's First Baptist Church and a second in Ward's high school auditorium. Mourners are encouraged to wear "Salem Spartan and Virginia Tech colors," in honor of Ward's high school and college, WBJ7 reported.
Services for Parker have not yet been announced, but her family has asked for donations to two scholarship funds named in her honor: the Alison B. Parker Memorial Fund scholarship through James Madison University – where she attended college – and the Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship through Patrick Henry Community College Foundation.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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