How the World reacted to On Air shooting

shooting in Virginia, media reaction, lauren wise, kettle mag
Written by Lauren Wise

Our headlines this week have been filled with reports of the shocking murder of reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27.  

It has been revealed that the journalists of WDBJ7 news station, Virginia, were shot by a former employee of the station live on air.

Print and online media has expressed shock and outrage at this incident, but what has disturbed many readers is the media’s publication of the footage.

Not only was the shooting filmed by Adam Ward, but gunman Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, later posted videos of the shooting on social media sites Twitter and Facebook, writing “I filmed the shooting see Facebook”.

These acts have been only worsened by the wide distribution of these images by print and online media, and in particular, tabloids. Here’s just some of Thursday’s front pages. 

Kettle readers, writers and editors have offered their opinions on how the media has reacted to this event and the consequences behind this kind of media attention.

Western media

Halimah Manan: Despite a similar shooting in Mexico recently, this has taken precedence over every other piece of news, reflecting the Western-centrism of the media. Print media really is the worst. This is typical when the only non-Western news which gains as much attention is when terrorist acts take place in the Middle East, which allow them to vilify whole countries and pretend to care about refugees and those killed.

Bridie Pearson-Jones: A couple of weeks ago there was a similar thing that happened on Brazil. A male radio presenter was shot dead live on air and it was barely covered in Western media!


Becky Parker: Whilst I may not agree with showing the video, don’t the public have a right to see it if they wish to? There is a fine line between censorship and sensationalism.

Leon Wingham: Is it also worth raising the question of exploitation? If the public have the right to see it, it means that someone will need to host it on their site. If they do this it is likely to appear alongside an advert (or three) meaning the publisher will be making money every time the video is viewed. All of which is a bit ethically questionable. Much in the same way as some of today’s front pages, really.

Is it fair to say that this story is being sensationalised because of four factors; one that it has happened in the US, two that the victims are white, three there is graphic video footage and four that the victims are journalists? Or am I being too cynical?

Fiona Carty: In the UK I believe there is a law where if someone watches something on the news (like this shooting) and is traumatized then the channel can be held liable for that. It’s one thing to think that people should see it, and another to watch it. I saw the pictures of one of the beheading videos and that was bad enough. I always think of the poor relatives when this goes on.  

Charlotte Hall: Newspapers are awful today but it’s insane that many Americans more outraged about media than the actual crime committed. (In response to The Sun’s front page) Have they ADDED fake gunfire to that image? What is wrong with them (can’t be answered in 140 characters, list is too long…)


Kirsite Keate: Anyone who wishes to see real people really shot dead should not be allowed to see the video on the grounds that their voyeuristic pleasure from it means they are in need of psychiatric help. If my family had been shot dead and I found people watching videos of it, it would only intensify my grief, it’s indefensible.

I live down the road from the Shoreham air crash, I know so many people that have been affected by it. I can’t tell you how distressing they find the really graphic videos of it on YouTube, there’s just no excuse.

Jessica Wells: An example of this is the Tunisia shootings. News channels were airing footage of the terrorist walking along the beach and even in the Panorama show. Conor Fulford (victim’s son) during the Panorama show tweeted his disbelief over what they showed. He sat in front of the TV for days scanning the images for his mother to later find out she had died. It’s not fair on the families.

So the concensus seems to be, it’s insenstive, unfair and exploits. So why are we being shown them? And why does the media continue to show explicit images and videos to their audiences? 

What’s your reaction to the media attention given to these shootings, and the footage that comes with it? Is is sickening or a necessity? Leave your views in the comments below! 

[Responses have been condensed and edited]