Editorial: We stand with WDBJ

Yesterday morning, much of the U.S. woke to the horror that two young journalists for Virginia’s WDBJ7 station were shot on live television in Moneta, Virginia.

Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were murdered just after 5:45 a.m. CDT. The shooter, who we won’t dignify by naming, was reportedly a disgruntled former reporter from the station, who last worked there in 2013. The shooter committed suicide approximately seven hours after he took the lives of Parker and Ward.

This editorial is not about gun violence or mental health. There is another time for that.

This editorial is about remembering two journalists that we don’t know. Alison Parker and Adam Ward were not University alumni — no one at our publication has met either. But the events have left us with a significant amount of pain.

As a nation, we are mourning. Just as we have mourned for the nine lives lost in Charleston, just as we have for the students lost each year because of university shooting incidents, just as we have for the victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

There is no simple justification for any of these deaths; every single victim has a story. But as yesterday’s gruesome act continues to gain publicity, we hope that the tone and focus changes from voyeuristic interest in the shooter to remembrance of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

So, to our fellow members of the media: Don’t let the shooter’s name cover the headlines for the upcoming weeks. Change the precedent by honoring Alison Parker and Adam Ward, instead.

Alison Parker was an alumna of James Madison University. She was in a serious relationship with Chris Hurst, another WDBJ employee, who tweeted Monday that the two had just moved in together. Alison Parker was the editor of her university’s college newspaper, The Breeze. She graduated just three years ago.

Adam Ward was engaged to Melissa Ott, a morning producer at WDBJ. A graduate of Virginia Tech University, he had been working at the station for four years.

Over the last year, Alison Parker and Adam Ward worked together on dozens of assignments.

These two journalists died in their own backyard. They weren’t in a war zone. This was not a horrible accident, it simply shouldn’t have happened.

So we, a part of the vast, sometimes bullish entity that is the media, send our condolences to those in Virginia, to WDBJ family, to Adam Ward’s fiancée, Melissa Ott, to Alison Parker’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst, and all of their families and friends. And finally, we send our condolences to anyone who felt any sort of impact from this tragedy.

We live in a society where gun violence is commonplace. The U.S. accounts for 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings. Every day, news of gun violence litters newspapers across the nation. Roanoke, Virginia may be 612 miles from Champaign, but the impact reaches well beyond our corn fields.