Editorial:  Another Disgruntled Employee

Editorial: Another Disgruntled Employee

PHOTO:   The victims in happier times


This morning, as the column is being written on production day (Wednesday), The Forum wants to use the editorial this week to say a few words in support of and sympathy for our fallen colleagues in Virginia.

Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of WDBJ 7, evidently upset by “racist comments” he alleged that reporter Alison Parker made and by another problem with cameraman Adam Ward, decided to shoot them dead during an interview they were broadcasting live with Vicky Gardner, a Chamber of Commerce director who was also shot during the horrific, televised, incident.

Both Parker and Ward were engaged to be married (to other people), and were otherwise in the prime of their lives, each with prospering and promising careers.

Flanagan, a reporter at the station from 2012 to 2013, then tweeted and uploaded a video of the gruesome murders to Facebook. He had filed a grievance with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being fired (supposedly because of “anger issues”) from WDBJ. According to the New York Daily News, Flanagan also sent a lengthy faxed complaint to ABC News. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. In 2000, Flanagan, known on-air as Bryce Williams, sued an NBC affiliate, allegedly for discriminatory practices and wrongful firing.

He shot himself on I-66 as state police attempted to apprehend him.

We know we’re not alone in asking, “Why?” Comments on the many incarnations of this story on the internet reflect our thoughts: “Tragedy seemingly on many levels,” says Steven Stewart. D Patrick Dewey writes, “A black man whose anger control issues got him fired from a job nurses a grudge for years against former co-workers then murders two of them. It’s a shame.”

Precisely what complaints Flanagan had against his previous employers and/or colleagues, aside from what’s been written, will now at least in part be forever up for debate. Instead of airing and addressing grievances in a calm (legal) manner, Flanagan fought what he viewed to be hatred with even more hatred and went on a rampage which ended in his own death. Just a week ago, perhaps harkening to this week’s tragedy, he tweeted photos of himself from his “modeling gigs” and alluded with seeming fondness to time spent as an escort. Clearly, this was a troubled person, and while we can sympathize with the emotionally disturbed as well as with people who feel mistreated or prejudiced against on the job, we obviously can’t sympathize with murder.

Our hearts go out to our journalist colleagues at WDBJ and to the families and loved ones of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.



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