Al Tompkins



Morning news crews say: “We stand with #WDBJ7″

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Should you use the video and the fax from the WDBJ shooting? That depends.

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward became the 31st and 32nd journalist murdered this year while doing their jobs.

They were on the air doing a routine morning show assignment on tourism. They weren’t on a foreign battlefield or similar dangerous place journalists around the globe report from daily, but today’s news underscores that it isn’t just war correspondents who find themselves in danger these days.

The Committee to Protect Journalists provides this list of journalists killed in 2015:

But look at where these killings happened:

Now you can add rural Moneta, Virginia to that list.

The public nature of the shooting raises several questions about the ethics of including graphic images of the incident in news stories and television broadcasts. Read more

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Same-sex marriage: Covering the battles ahead

Now that the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage has had time to sink in, journalists should wake up to the fact that a complicated and contentious debate lies ahead. Just as Brown v. The Board of Education didn’t end discrimination in schools and Roe v. Wade did not end the abortion debate, Obergefell v. Hodges will not end the opposition to same-sex marriage. The next battles may be in churches, where the Court’s decision cannot interfere.

Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons all “officially” oppose same-sex marriage. Others, including Methodists and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, do not allow ministers to perform same-sex weddings.

Pew Research compiled a list of where churches currently stand.

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I point to these charts to say journalists have more stories to write about this issue. Read more


NBC and Brian Williams still have explaining to do

Brian Williams moderates a debate between presidential candidates in 2008 file photo.  (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Brian Williams moderates a debate between presidential candidates in 2008 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

I believe in second chances and redemption. But NBC’s decision to move Brian Williams to MSNBC isn’t enough of an endgame move for me.

NBC News has not released the findings of its investigation into inaccurate and embellished statements that Williams made on the news and on other non-news programs. Williams was interviewed by “Today”‘s Matt Lauer, and those segments will air Friday. In a statement sent to NBC employees, Williams is quoted as saying,

I’m sorry. I said things that weren’t true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I’m determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News, but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor.

Read more

Church shooting: Choose your words carefully

This image has been provided by the Charleston Police Department.(Charleston Police Department via AP)

This image has been provided by the Charleston Police Department.(Charleston Police Department via AP)

I wanted to share some thoughts prompted by an email I got this morning by Matt Jaworowski, a Media General Digital Content Producer.

Matt noticed a barrage of social media comments wondering why journalists are not using the word “terrorist” to describe the man who shot up a Charleston, South Carolina church. Matt pointed me toward tweets like this one:

The shooter, who police say is  21-year-old Dylann Roof, killed 9 people including the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

These hours, after such an event, are the times when journalists should be using subjective adjectives sparingly. Read more

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Networks use drones to cover Nepal quake

(Screen shot from NBC's drone coverage of Nepal.)

(Screen shot from NBC’s drone coverage of Nepal.)

NBC News’ Miguel Almaguer used dramatic video captured by a drone in his reporting from Nepal this week.

The images soaring above the ruins of destroyed temples in Kathmandu are a demonstration of how valuable these drones can be in adding context and scale, even while they are currently banned for commercial use in the U.S. It is the third time in recent months, NBC News has used unmanned drones to report a story.

NBC included the images in NBC Nightly News and Today. It also included a version just for online. NBC also used the video to show the damage of some of Nepal’s towering historic temples.

“NBC has been interested in drones for some time so we brought the drone into Nepal and worked with local contacts there to be sure we stayed out of the way of authorities and rescue workers.” said NBC Senior Vice President Editorial Janelle Rodriguez. Read more


NPR now allows users to embed 800,000 pieces of audio

Starting Wednesday, NPR began including embed codes with every story.

With yesterday’s change, NPR is enabling widespread distribution of its audio, said Patrick Cooper, director of Web and engagement for the public radio network.

“We’re throwing open the doors to embedding, putting our audio on your site,” he said.

Until now, NPR has only allowed embedding “sporadically,” Cooper wrote in a post for NPR:

No matter their devices, visitors to your site will be able to play the NPR audio and tap the player’s headline to see the full story on The new NPR embed is mobile-friendly and fully responsive to all sizes of digital screens.

You also now can expect embed-ability with almost all audio NPR publishes. For legal reasons, we can’t offer embedding of our radio streams, and sometimes we’ll need to withhold select NPR Music exclusives.

Read more

Meet Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother who slapped her rioting son



CBS landed an interview with the most talked about person caught on camera during the Baltimore riots. But Toya Graham was not a rioter — she is a mother who saw her 16-year-old son Michael in the middle of the rock-throwing crowd. “He was coming across the street with a hoodie on and a mask. At that point I just lost it,” she told CBS News.

CNN and CBS called her the “tough love” mom. While the video spread across social media and on the air, it started when WMAR-TV photojournalist Manny Locke spotted Graham as she pushed her way through the crowd to get to her son. The video, which has been played hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube and news websites, shows Graham swearing at and repeatedly slapping her son on the side of the head. Read more

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Journalists are looking for the Baltimore mother who stepped in last night

Veteran WMAR photojournalist Manny Locke was in the middle of a covering the unfolding riots in Baltimore when he noticed a woman plowing through the crowd then yelling and slapping one of the masked hooded young men in the street. Locke kept rolling as it became clear the woman was the young man’s mother. Here’s the video, which is laced with swearing.


WMAR reported the mother could be heard saying that she had spotted her son live on TV participating in the riots. WMAR News Director Kelly Groft told me that journalists from everywhere have been scouring Baltimore Tuesday to find the mother.

“This is a story that people have connected with,” Groft told me. “It is, I think, what a lot of people wanted to see parents doing last night.” Read more


Journalists attacked and injured in Baltimore riots

At least nine journalists have been beaten or injured in the Baltimore riots this week — including several Monday night.

Casey Harper, a reporter with the Daily Caller Foundation, says he took a liquor bottle to the head amid a “mob of attackers.”

Trey Yingst, a reporter for News2Share tells me that he was traveling with Daily Caller journalists Conner Wolf, Casey Harper and Grae Stafford when Wolf was slugged in the face by a rioter. Read more

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