To Stand with #WDBJ7

The news yesterday out of Virginia was horrifying.

There is no other word. None.

It would seem, at this point, that the execution of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two journalists who were on the air, live, for WDBJ early Wednesday morning, was carried out by a disgruntled former employee of the station. It does not appear to be related to the work they did.

But there is very little solace in that, very little. Two people who had dedicated their young lives to helping their community were taken out of it, brutally, and in the most public way possible.

Horrifying. There is no other word.

My goal with this site is to share news about the visual journalism industry, the great work and the controversies. As with anyone in the journalism profession, we are more than just journalists, we are members of a family, a community. I’d like to take a moment to talk about community, writ large and not confined by the press cards we may carry.

We have some large problems in this country and we have a lot of them. I have no idea how this former employee of WDBJ got access to a gun, whether it was legally acquired or not. And I don’t care right now, that’s a debate for another day.

From the reports I have read, this man had a long history of erratic behavior. And please do not think I am excusing his actions with this next statement, but I suspect he had some serious mental health issues.

And this is a society that is still grappling with mental health issues – for all the efforts we have made, for all the progress we have made, the mental health crisis we are in is one of the greatest challenges we have right now.

Our health care system is neither equipped properly nor funded adequately to help those in need.

And we, as members of society, are not dealing with these issues. Even in the language we choose to use, we fail to understand that mental health issues are a disease. We explain, “He has cancer” but then say, “She is mentally ill.”


Why does someone get one illness but become another? It’s those sorts of language issues that we need to work on.

There is no excusing what happened in Virginia yesterday. None. Absolutely none. But if – and I realize, this is a big if – it comes out that the perpetrator here had a mentally illness and did not get the care he needed, then let us use this as a call to action.

Let us take this opportunity to shine a light on an issue that is affecting our communities deeply.

Let us use our platform, our obligation to serve, our ability to filter information and present it in a comprehensive and compelling way to spur action in our communities.

Let us make a difference – we owe it to Adam Ward and Alison Parker.

Mark E. Johnson

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