Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nothing Is Going To Change

The father of the young reporter killed on live TV by a disgruntled former co-worker told Fox “News” last night that next week, no one will remember what happened to his daughter.

And I think he’s right. No one, except TV news folks.

Sandy Hook was the turning point, which demonstrated once and for all, that this nation is not going to do anything about improving access to mental health care and limiting access to guns. And the vast majority of Americans are going to turn a blind eye to the statistics that show when it comes to gun violence, the U.S. is completely off the chart when compared to every other nation.

The nearly unbelievable story of yesterday’s live-on-TV-murders hit home to me and a lot of my friends who are broadcasters. My very first job in TV news was as a one-man-band with an 8-mm film camera, working as a Fox Valley “stringer” (news lingo for part-time reporter) for a Green Bay TV station.


When you’re on a TV shoot, whether it’s being broadcast live or not, you’re concentrating 100% on the task at hand, and you do your best to tune out everything else around you. That’s probably why the gunman was able to get so close to the young reporter, her photographer, and the lady they were interviewing. Thousands of "live shots”, as the TV folks call them, are done every day all across the nation.

But I don’t think there’s ever been one before involving the killing of a reporter on live TV.

My wife, Toni, did hundreds of “live shots” during the decade or so that she worked for Channel 3 in Madison. The only time I was ever concerned for her safety was a live shot she was on from Sun Prairie one evening on the 6 o’clock news. (Well, there was one other time, after a huge blizzard, that Toni crawled up onto the roof of somebody’s house to do a live shot about “ice dams” – but I knew if she fell off the roof it would be into a huge snowbank.) Back to the Sun Prairie live shot: I saw a bolt of lightning strike far in the background of her live shot. The technology that allowed live shots back in those days involved a remote truck with a tall mast and antenna that sent the signal back to the TV station – in other words, a lightning magnet.

The second I saw that lightning bolt in the distant background of her live shot, I was confident that the moment she finished the live report (which was about 10 seconds after I saw the lightning) that her photographer would run to the remote truck and take down the tall mast. TV news crews take that kind of risk – lightning anywhere in the vicinity – very seriously.  What they have probably never worried about – until yesterday – was being gunned down by a disgruntled former colleague during a live shot.

With the vast number of news people in the print and broadcast ranks shown the door in the past decade, Lord knows there are plenty of unhappy former news people out there.

This particular crime is getting far more in-depth coverage on all news media because, first of all, it involved people in the news profession. And because it involved TV folks, there’s a wealth of ready-for-news photos and videos of the victims. Had this happened to a used car sales person, the TV news folks would have relied, probably, on the person’s Facebook account, or the victim’s family, for pictures. So, in a very sad and twisted way, it’s a made-for-TV news story.

But, I think, as the young reporter’s dad said, a week from now people won’t remember it. The perp is dead, of his own hand, so there’ll be no arraignment, trial, or sentencing to report. You can bet that TV news crews are already paying a lot more attention to their surroundings when they’re on a “shoot”, the unfortunate TV term for these things.

But there’ll be no serious talk about gun violence, mental health access, or anything of the sort.

It’ll be business as usual in another day or so, until the next incident.