Slain journalist’s dad criticizes media, but coverage omits this

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Screen shot of Andy Parker and Chris Hurst being interviewed by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly

While Andy Parker’s sharp criticism of politicians and the NRA has received extensive coverage, there’s been a noticeable silence surrounding his critique of the media.

“I’m challenging you, the media, because… this is one of your own,” Parker told CNN. A day earlier his daughter, Alison Parker, a 24 year-old reporter with WDJB in Roanoke, Virginia, was gunned down on live television, along with her cameraman, Adam Ward.

The suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan II, was known as Bryce Williams to viewers of WDJB, where he worked as a reporter before being fired two years ago after a short, turbulent stint. As he made his getaway, Flanagan posted updates on Facebook and Twitter, including his own video of the shooting, to ensure the televised murder also went viral on social media.

Appearing on Fox News the night of the murder, when asked for his final thoughts, Parker zeroed in on the media. “I know it’s the news business and this is a big story, but next week it isn’t going to be a story anymore and everybody is going to forget it.” Standing beside his daughter’s boyfriend, who worked with Alison as a fellow reporter at WDJB, Parker concluded the interview with these words: “Remember… she was one of you. Don’t let this go. Don’t let this slide.”

The following day on CNN, Parker once again returned to the issue of the media’s episodic coverage of gun violence. “I know how the business works. It’s a great story for a couple of days and then it goes to the back burner and nothing happens,” Parker said.

After each grizzly shooting, the push for gun control receives renewed media attention, only to be forgotten until the next one. It’s not just Parker making this point, but longtime CBS news anchor Dan Rather, who called it “journalistic malpractice and a societal tragedy.” In the wake of the murder, Rather wrote, “If the incredible death toll from gun violence had any other cause – terrorism, a plague, unsafe buildings, we would find the national resolve to act.”

In terms of gun violence, the U.S. is off the charts when compared to other industrialized nations. The U.S. loses 92 lives a day to gun violence, more than 33,000 a year, and averages one mass shooting a day. “More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Andy Parker’s push for gun control will undoubtedly come up against the same stiff winds of past attempts, be they after Newtown, Sandy Hook or some of the other events seared into our collective memory. In Virginia, legislators are already pushing back on reform efforts, notwithstanding the state’s violent recent history –  which includes the Virginia Tech shooting and the suicide of State Sen. Creigh Deeds’ mentally ill son, Gus, who attacked his father with a knife before shooting himself.

Parker knows passing gun control measures won’t be easy. “I have to be a crusader on this,” he said. In addition to being determined, he’s also experienced, having been elected in 2003 to the Henry County Board of Supervisors where he served four years – he’s now running to reclaim his old seat, at least he was at the time of his daughter’s death.

Whether he continues running or not, Parker’s main campaign will be to honor his daughter by fighting for gun control “so this doesn’t happen to someone else again.” In televised interviews, this father of a reporter has repeatedly critiqued the media’s role in this ongoing American tragedy of gun violence.

Regardless of whether the media continues to ignore Parker’s critique, he’s going to keep at it. “I can promise you,” he said, “I’m not going to rest until I see something get done.”

Correction: This piece was originally titled “Media fails to cover Andy Parker’s critique of media”

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