How WDBJ Chose Between Grief and Journalism

By Kevin Eck 

“This is a hard day for all of us here at WDBJ7,” said anchor Melissa Gaona during the Roanoke, Va. CBS affiliate’s 5 p.m. newscast. “We are mourning Alison and Adam, but it is our job to find the facts.”

The Associated Press reports WDBJ had to balance journalism with its own grief when it became the news when two of its employees, Adam Ward and Alison Parker, were shot at point-blank range and killed by a disgruntled former employee live on-air.

In sometimes shaky voices, Marks, reporters and anchors shared tender memories of Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, as kind friends and dedicated colleagues. They also provided sketchy details of the shooting. Then Marks, his hair disheveled but his emotions in check, put a stop to it, at least in those early, freshly painful moments.


“We should probably go back to regular programming now, rather than prolonging this. But rest assured, we’ll come back on the air as more information becomes available,” he said.

In an age when video of crashes, shootings, fires and other tragedies is readily available and endlessly replayed, it was a decision — albeit it one influenced by personal loss — that other outlets often fail to make and for which they are roundly criticized.

WDBJ news director Kelly Zuber was asked in an interview whether the station planned to air the selfie video. In it, a hand holding a gun is seen behind Ward for several seconds and then squeezes off shots at Parker.

“At this point we don’t,” she said Wednesday evening. “We’ll review that as we go. It’s pretty raw right now in our newsroom. And we will continue to process the journalism, and if that piece of video is important to what we do, we’ll include it. But for right now, no. No.”