Viewers of Virginia TV Station Wake Up to Watch a Nightmare

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Documents Show Vester Lee Flanagan’s Turbulent Tenure at TV Station Before Virginia Shooting.

“What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism,” he said.Vester Lee Flanagan claimed in a suicide note Wednesday that June’s massacre of black parishioners at a South Carolina church was “the tipping point” that sent him on the path to murdering two journalists on live television Wednesday.

When video of the on-air shooting of a Virginia news reporter and cameraman spread within minutes across the country — with the killer even posting his own footage online — they became the latest exhibits in a moral and ethical drama that is playing out in blood at newspapers and TV stations and on social media. A deranged gunman, holding a smartphone to film as he shot and killed two young Roanoke, Virginia journalists on Wednesday as they conducted an on-air interview. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Thomas Faison said Vester Lee Flanagan legally bought the gun used to kill Alison Parker and Adam Ward. But in court papers and interviews with The Daily Beast, former colleagues describe Flanagan as a problematic employee, who was repeatedly reprimanded for his harsh treatment of coworkers, and complained racism was behind harsh evaluations of his work. “He just had a history of playing the race card,” former WTWC anchor Dave Leval told The Daily Beast. “I know he did that in Tallahassee a couple of times….” The day Flanagan was fired from a Virginia TV station in 2013, his bosses called 911 because of his volatile behavior—an incident captured on camera by Adam Ward, a man who would later become one of his victims.

Flanagan’s arrival at WDBJ, a television station in Roanoke, Va., station executives and rank-and-file employees were deeply concerned about his conduct. After the shooting, ex-journalist Flanagan uploaded chilling first-person video to Twitter and Facebook showing him walking up to the crew and pointing a gun at Parker before firing. Among the central questions were whether media producers ought to be broadcasting footage of a double slaying, and what effect does such video, repeating over and over, have on society, let alone unstable potential copycats?

As he raised the firearm at the oblivious news crew, Flanagan appeared to pause until Ward’s camera returned to the interview to ensure the murders would be broadcast live on-air. Ms Parker screamed and ran away as around 15 shots rang out, as the news camera operated by Ward fell to the ground and fleetingly captured an image of an armed Flanagan.

I’m going to make a stink and it’s going to be in the headlines.” “He repeated … his feeling that firing him would lead to negative consequences for me personally and for the station,” Dennison said, according to a statement in a racial discrimination lawsuit Flanagan filed in 2014, which was dismissed. It has since been revealed that Flanagan, 41, was a former reporter for WDBJ7 and used the screen name Bryce Williams before he was fired two years ago.

Shortly after 7 a.m., Flanagan approached Ward and reporter Alison Parker from behind at a local park while they were interviewing Vicki Gardner of the local chamber of commerce. Many big media outlets, including The Chronicle’s website, offered the initial live video to viewers but not the more graphic video shot by Williams, even though it was widely available on the Internet. “Yes, everything is available online,” said Bob Papper, a journalism professor emeritus at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., who has surveyed trends in television and radio for 22 years. “I don’t know if it drives what’s on TV other than it makes us numb to the realities of it.

A series of tweets aired grievances the shooter had with his former colleagues and included a host of personal images since seized upon by news outlets. It may well change the standard, so it’s possible young people have a very different standard of what to show than an old fogy like me, but I don’t think we need to see people being killed on television.” Flanagan, who later shot himself to death, attended San Francisco State University and once worked part time as a production assistant at KPIX-TV in San Francisco. WDBJ7 has confirmed both Parker and Ward died in the shooting, while it is understood Gardner, the woman being interviewed by Parker, was shot in the back and has undergone surgery. The disgruntled former employee of WDBJ sought wide exposure for his actions, posting messages on Twitter on Wednesday morning about his time at the station. Flanagan in a memorandum, “resulted in one or more of your co-workers feeling threatened or uncomfortable,” the documents showed. “We want you to work on the tone of your interpersonal relationships and exercise great care in dealing with stressful situations or disagreements and your response to them,” the executive, Dan Dennison, wrote. “You need to always work as a member of a collaborative team and allow your teammates to do their jobs and not assume that you alone are concerned with high quality standards.” At the time, Mr.

Former neighbor Tandy Amburgey said Gardner always greeting people with a hug and would not want Smith Mountain Lake’s reputation to be tarnished by the shooting. He claimed in the screed that he had been driven by the June slayings of nine African Americans at a church in South Carolina, an attack committed by a white racist. He said that police in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she had her first full-time job would give her scoops because she showed herself to be trustworthy. As I watched the video –- wishing all the while that I hadn’t found it — I couldn’t stop thinking: Did he shoot it like a video game because he was trying to recreate the violence he’d seen on game console screens? He was transported to a hospital, where he later died. “Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said, adding, “when he was hired here, he quickly gathered a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with.

He was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to.” Flanagan also filed an employment discrimination suit against a Tallahassee, Florida, station where he worked from 1999 to 2000, (That case was settled out of court.) According to one news report, Flanagan said he and another black employee were called “monkeys” and claimed a supervisor once said, “blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money” for scholarships and other opportunities. Of particular concern to some who followed the horror in Virginia was the idea that the constant coverage, the videos and the details of the killer’s ramblings could encourage copycats. He wanted to chronicle his acts, but if he actually planned to use the phone during his crime, why hadn’t he recorded something in advance to explain his motive, or maybe something at the end to tell the world what he had just done? Don Shafer, Flanagan’s former boss at WTWC in Tallahassee, called Flanagan a “pretty good reporter” but said “things started getting a little strange with him.” “We ended up having to terminate his contract and let him go for bizarre behavior and fighting with other employees,” Shafer said on San Diego 6, where he now serves as news director. Flanagan to contact the company’s employee assistance program. “We will continue assisting you with your professional growth and development,” Mr.

Flanagan claimed he purchased his gun two days after nine black parishioners were killed in Charleston in June—and that was fighting back in the race war Dylann Roof supposedly wanted to start. “The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily,” Flanagan wrote. “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” Flanagan also claimed he was attacked for being a gay black man, and that he suffered bullying, sexual harassment and racial discrimination at work, ABC News reported. “I am hereby requesting a trial which will be heard by a jury of my peers,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “I would like my jury to be comprised of African-American women.” He also claimed head photographer Lynn Eller was the mastermind of a “carefully orchestrated effort by the photography staff to oust me,” court documents show. “Why did one of the photographers go to HR on me after working with me ONLY ONCE,” Flanagan wrote, in an apparent reference to victim Adam Ward. “There was nothing to report! But, he said, there is danger in media saturation. “If they are going to use that footage beyond anything live, it should be used in the context of how gun violence is a problem, to educate the public — otherwise, it’s just clickbait,” Girard said, referring to shallow online content designed to drive up readership figures. “These shooters should not be glamorized.” According to the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Among the missteps that led to this admonition was his decision to cover a local creamery over the governor’s comments on gun control after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. “I had a better chance of winning the lottery before I thought he’d do something crazy like this,” Dean added. “All I can do is pray for the victims and pray for his family.”

The page linked to his Facebook page, which is where — like countless others — I discovered the gut-wrenching, autoplaying video. (His LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts have all subsequently been taken down). While we can’t say to what extent Flanagan planned his acts (there are reports he sent a lengthy manifesto to media outlets before the murders), I am not convinced he had planned out how he would use social media in advance. Dennison wrote a memorandum that detailed what he described as “recent examples of lack of thorough reporting, poor on-air performance or time management issues.” As the winter wore on, station officials decided to fire Mr.

But I had also seen the live WDBJ7 video shot through Ward’s camera and the scene matched it exactly, except for the perspective behind the cameraman. If she was here, she’d be saying ‘Man, at least everybody gets to see our beautiful lake.'” Authorities say the suspect in the on-air fatal shooting of two journalists was found by Virginia state troopers after he switched from his vehicle to a rental car he’d gotten earlier this month.

Using the same technology that each of us use every day to share our happiest and saddest thoughts, our biggest and most minor accomplishments, Flanagan had an agenda most of us can scarcely comprehend. This distorted use of the technology and the platforms makes me wonder if more of this will seep through as those who’ve become unmoored from society seek a voice and a way to communicate their pain, anger or frustration. Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton says Flanagan fled the scene of the shooting, at a mall where the journalists were doing an interview, before deputies arrived. The fiancee of the cameraman killed during a live broadcast outside a Virginia shopping mall was marking her last day at the TV station before moving on to a job at another station.

WDBJ-TV general manager Jeffrey Marks said Wednesday was cameraman Adam Ward’s fiancee, station producer Melissa Ott, was in the control room Wednesday morning as the shooting unfolded. The station generally denied the allegations of discrimination and said it had legitimate reasons for ending Flanagan’s employment, including poor performance, misbehavior with regard to co-workers, refusal to follow directions, use of profanity and budgetary reasons. The shooting played out during live TV on the broadcast from the station, WDBJ-TV, based in Roanoke and serving the southwest and central parts of Virginia.

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