My heart is heavy today. Another senseless act of violence perpetrated in the most public forum possible. This shooter apparently had a long history of feeling persecuted, and he suffered professionally as a result. According to an article in Newsweek, Flanagan had sued a previous employer for discrimination in response to reported comments disparaging him because of his race. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money in 2000. A copy of the complaint is available on the Newsweek article. That’s enough about this dude, I want to talk about the parts I understand.
I was incredibly fortunate as a teenager. I had a news director at my local TV station allow me to complete an internship in the news department. I was the first high school student to be granted this privilege. I learned so much during that semester, and the opportunity allowed me to gain employment as an associate producer at KLBK when I was 16. Most of my responsibilities were similar to my responsibilities when I was an intern, I ripped scripts, ran the teleprompter, pulled a few stories from the AP wire, and edited some of the video. Sometimes I got to tag along for special events, and I was the mascot (I actually wore a dog suit) for a short time.
I loved my job. It was exciting and fun. I learned a lot of skills which have proven useful in my current career. One of the most important skills I learned is how to deal with people who have (for lack of a better word,) strong personalities. I believe performing on air requires a certain amount of self importance, and self confidence in order to be convincing as a talent. Most of the people I worked closely with were (and still are) amazingly generous people, and I am a better person for having them in my life at such a young age. Tensions ran high frequently in the newsroom, and it is not a place for sensitive people. There are deadlines that cannot be missed, and you have to please a fickle public and more importantly, you have to please your advertisers. The ratings have to be considered, AND you have to use integrity and ethical reporting while not offending the public. Sure, it is a high stress environment.
While our journalists are not often considered “first responders” in the way healthcare providers and police officers are, they do put themselves in harm’s way in order to provide a public service. They are the information centers of our society. Even in our social media crazed society, we still turn on the local news when the weather is ominous. When there is a developing story involving active shooters or bomb threats (just an example), our journalists do not seek cover, they rush to the scene and deliver the most current updates. I like to believe they are acting to keep us safe.
Journalists are tasked with gathering information, and the public is constantly demanding more. We expect in-depth reporting, and exciting video to stimulate our constant craving for adrenaline. We reward the most daring journalists with our hits, tweets, and shares. Only the most exciting (or perhaps adorable) video goes viral.
I am one of the worst critics, and I tend to hold people (especially professionals) to high standards. I frequently forget to express my gratitude, and in light of this public tragedy, I want to now.
I don’t know what this guys problem was. Frankly, I don’t care. I think he is most likely an asshole with a mental illness. Keep in mind, not everyone who is mentally ill is violent. I could spout a bunch of crap on here about the need for gun control and reform for mental healthcare, but I am not.
I just want to thank all the journalists who provide this public service for me. I appreciate the work you do. I also appreciate all the people who took me under their wing when I was just a kid, and taught me so much about looking for the story. You were my first mentors.
Lastly, my thoughts are with the coworkers, families, and friends of the victims of this crime. I am so sorry for your loss. I appreciate the service your loved ones provided for the public.