Late Sunday, just hours after a gunman stood on a rooftop in Highland Park, Illinois, and shot into a crowd enjoying a Fourth of July parade, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt knew he had to be in the Chicago suburb for Monday night’s newscast.
Whenever a major news event happens — a weather disaster, a war or, much too frequently these days, a mass shooting — anchors often rush to the scene to host the evening news.
Why? Why is it so important for someone such as Holt to rush to somewhere such as Highland Park or Uvalde, Texas; or Lviv, Ukraine; when they can anchor the news from New York or Washington?
So I asked Holt that very question on Tuesday, just a couple of hours before he went on the air from Highland Park.
He told me in an email, “I will always be a reporter first, and an anchor second. My natural urges are to always be at the big story. Being here sends a clear message that it’s a story of high importance and one that we are committing to in a big way.”
It’s true. Holt — and other network news anchors such as ABC News’ David Muir and CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell — aren’t just anchors. They’re journalists. They’re not just introducing reporters from the scene. They are there to do the reporting — talking to witnesses, questioning authorities and interviewing experts.
And, as Holt mentioned, it does signal to the audience: This story is important, this story matters, me being here matters.
On Tuesday, Adriana Diaz, in for O’Donnell, co-anchored the “CBS Evening News” from Highland Park and was joined by reporter Kris Van Cleave. Diaz not only anchored, but reported — interviewing some of the witnesses. Linsey Davis, filling in for Muir, anchored ABC’s “World News Tonight” from New York, but ABC had reporters, including Alex Perez and Stephanie Ramos, in Highland Park.
Holt was joined by Tom Llamas in Highland Park. Holt interviewed several witnesses who were at the parade, and talked extensively about several of the victims. That included gut-wrenching interviews with family members of one of the victims.
Holt then closed Tuesday night’s newscast with these powerful remarks:
“Finally tonight, the words of perspective I often close the broadcast with on tragic nights like this, I’m sorry to say fail me this time. Because there have been too many nights like this. Too many nights when I’ve stood at crime scenes like this, thinking not just about the tragedy before my eyes, but of the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that. Frustrated that words alone cannot stop it. As we look out over the latest city turned crime scene, we see the things left behind and know for those who ran from danger, it’s not just a chair or a wagon, but a sense of safety, a sense of innocence left behind as well.”
We’re learning more about the shooting that has now killed seven people and sent dozens more to the hospital. Authorities on Monday said the suspect fired more than 70 rounds into the crowd with a gun that he had purchased legally. In addition, the 21-year-old man had planned the attack for weeks. He dressed like a woman to help cover his facial tattoos and to help him escape following the shooting.
We also learned Tuesday that the authorities had seized knives from the suspect in 2019 after he threatened to “kill everyone.”
‘I saw the horror unfold’
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet was at the July Fourth parade in Highland Park and wrote a column that was published Monday.
Sweet wrote, “It was all so delightfully normal. Then it wasn’t.”
One moment, there were children in strollers and spectators in folding chairs. Then, after the shooting started, the strollers and folding chairs were left behind empty, surrounded by other items that were dropped as spectators scrambled to safety — items such as backpacks and towels and water bottles.
Sweet then wrote in “gruesome detail” some of what she saw: “I saw my first body of the day. A blanket covered the top of the man. His shorts were soaked with blood. His legs were bloody and blood was still flowing out of him. Two more bodies were on the steps leading into Port Clinton. Thankfully, someone threw blankets over their torsos.”
Mass shootings used to be nightmares that happened in other places. But, as Sweet wrote, “I’ve been reporting on gun massacres for years — since the 1999 Columbine school shootings. But always from a distance. I wasn’t there when the killing happened. Until this July Fourth. When I was.”
More coverage from Highland Park
- The Chicago Tribune with “These are the victims of the Fourth of July parade shooting in Highland Park.”
- Photos from the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Dr. David Baum, who was at the parade, tells CNN’s John Berman what he saw and his efforts to save those shot.
- The Washington Post editorial board with “Again, Americans are killed by a weapon of war. A ban must be on the table.” The board writes, “… as the horrific events of Highland Park demonstrated, more rigorous reforms are needed. Banning assault weapons is a good place to restart the conversation.”
- Also in the Post, columnist Christine Emba with “A new symbol for the Fourth of July: The active shooter.”
- And more from the Post — deeply disturbing graphics from Júlia Ledur, Kate Rabinowitz and Artur Galocha in “There have been over 300 mass shootings so far in 2022.”
Disturbing tweet of the day
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is one of two House Republicans on the Jan. 6 Select Committee and that, among other things, has not made him popular among some Republicans. And it also has led to verbal attacks from citizens. On Monday, Kinzinger put out a tweet with a compilation of some of the nasty voice messages his office has received. Warning, if you listen: It’s very R-rated.
Kinzinger wrote, “Threats of violence over politics has increased heavily in the last few years. But the darkness has reached new lows. My new interns made this compilation of recent calls they’ve received while serving in my DC office.”
Kinzinger announced last October that he would not seek reelection in November.
Joe says no
Popular (make that very popular) podcaster Joe Rogan is no stranger to controversy, including interviews that produced potentially dangerous misinformation about COVID-19. He also hasn’t shied away from controversial guests. For example, he interviewed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when Rogan went on Lex Fridman’s podcast and said he has, “more than once,” turned down interviewing former President Donald Trump.
Rogan said, “The Trump era is also going to be one of the weirder times. When people look back historically about the division in this country, he’s such a polarizing figure that so many people felt like they could abandon their own ethics and morals and principles just to attack him and anybody who supports him because he is an existential threat to democracy itself.”
Rogan then added, “I’m not a Trump supporter in any way, shape or form. I’ve had the opportunity to have him on my show more than once. I’ve said no, every time. I don’t want to help him. I’m not interested in helping him.”
Rogan said he believes Trump will run again and can win because “he’s running against a dead man, you know?” Rogan was talking about President Joe Biden, whom Rogan seemed to be criticizing for not being sharp.
Hat tip to Mediaite’s Candice Ortiz for writing about Rogan’s appearance on Fridman’s podcast.
- Janai Norman has been named the new co-anchor for the Saturday and Sunday broadcasts of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She joins co-anchors Whit Johnson and Eva Pilgrim. Norman started at ABC News as an intern in 2011 and returned in 2016 to cover politics for various platforms in the D.C. bureau. She also has worked as the overnight anchor on “World News Now” and “America This Morning” and hosted “Pop News” over the weekend.
- CNBC’s Annie Palmer with “Andy Jassy just wrapped up a rocky first year after succeeding Bezos as Amazon CEO.”
- Washington Post games reporter Gene Park announced on Twitter that he has cancer. He tweeted, “I have cancer. I will fight it. The fight’s already begun. Thank you all for listening. I’m humbled by your concern and support.”
- A statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists: “CPJ calls for US to pursue accountability in Shireen Abu Akleh killing.”
- Hank Goldberg, who worked at ESPN as an NFL reporter and gambling expert, died Monday on his 82nd birthday. ESPN reported Goldberg had treatment for chronic kidney disease in recent years. Goldberg also was known for his TV and radio work in Miami. CBS Sports’ Gene Menez has an extensive and detailed story about Goldberg.
- The New York Times’ Ken Belson with “An N.F.L. Star’s C.T.E. Diagnosis Offers Only Partial Insight.”
- Rolling Stone’s Matt Sullivan with “Did This Trump-Loving, Leopard-Hunting Dentist Kill His Wife?”
- Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay with “In Sports, Leaving Is the New Winning.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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