August 26, 2015

The on-air shooting deaths of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward on Wednesday morning in Virginia marks a total of 10 journalists murdered on the job or for their work in the United States since 1992.

According to Committee to Protect Journalists, six journalists have been murdered in the country while on assignment, at work or for their work since 1992. CPJ doesn’t include Charnice Milton or Kent Heitholt, but we’re including them here.


In May of this year, Charnice Milton, a reporter with Hill Rag, was killed on her way home from work. According to a piece by Sarah Stillman in The New Yorker:

She’d stopped to transfer buses in Anacostia, in Washington, D.C., after covering a neighborhood meeting for a Capitol Hill paper called the Hill Rag. According to police, Milton took a bullet aimed at another passerby, in a neighborhood that’s seen much of the twenty-per-cent increase in homicides in D.C. from this time last year. Her killing remains unsolved.

In 2007, the Oakland Post’s Chauncey Bailey was murdered “to prevent the editor from publishing a story about the bakery’s financial connections.” From CPJ:

A masked gunman dressed in black clothes approached Bailey, editor-in-chief of the Oakland Post and four other weeklies, on a street in downtown Oakland, Calif., as the journalist was on his way to work about 7:30 a.m. The assailant shot Bailey multiple times at close range before fleeing on foot, Oakland police spokesman Roland Holmgren told CPJ. Bailey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, who died after inhaling anthrax in Boca Raton, Florida in 2001.

Officials confirmed that the type of anthrax that killed Stevens was the same strain that was mailed to a number of journalists, officials and other people, including NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Freelance photojournalist William Biggart died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City.

The journalist’s body was found on September 15 in the rubble at Ground Zero, near the bodies of several firefighters. Biggart had rushed to the scene with his camera shortly after hearing about the attacks.

Kent Heitholt, a sports editor with the Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune, was murdered while leaving work. From the Tribune:

The teens decided Heitholt was the person they were going to rob, and they crossed Providence and walked up the alley. When they reached a loading dock, they hid behind a Dumpster and waited for a second person in the lot, a Tribune sports writer, to leave. They crouched in the darkness for about three minutes while Heitholt and the writer talked.

James Edwin Richards, editor of the e-mail newsletter Neighborhood News was shot and killed in 2000 in Venice, California.

Neighborhood News reported on petty theft, drug sales, and other local crimes. Richards was also a longtime community activist and block captain for his community’s Model Neighborhood Program.

Press reports quoted Venice councilwoman Ruth Galanter as saying that Richards’s murder “appears to have been a straightforward assassination.” She added that Richards had made many enemies in the course of his work as a journalist and activist.

Dona St. Plite, a reporter with WKAT in Miami, was murdered in 1993.

St. Plite, a Haitian-born reporter and commentator for radio station WKAT in Miami, was murdered at a benefit for the family of Fritz Dor, a colleague killed two years earlier. His name had appeared on a hit list of supporters of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was the third Haitian-born journalist killed in Miami in three years.

Manuel de Dios Unanue, former editor of El Diario/La Prensa, was shot in a restaurant in New York City in 1992.

Police believe that more than a dozen drug traffickers and businessmen plotted to murder de Dios in retaliation for hard-hitting stories he had written about their drug and money laundering operations. Daily death threats were telephoned into the offices of El Diario/La Prensa after the journalist’s murder.

The United States ranks 49 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

We’ve reported several times over the years when reporters have had guns pulled on them while reporting. In July, news crews with KNTV and KTVU were mugged at gunpoint while reporting. In 2014, KTRK-TV reporter Demond Fernandez was met with a gun after approaching a man while on assignment. Also in 2014, KCEN’s Patrick Crawford was shot several times outside the station. In 2013, WESH-TV reporter Claire Metz had a gun pointed at her after approaching a woman’s home for a story.

Correction: The original headline said the six journalists killed in the U.S. were on assignment. We’ve updated the headline to reflect that some were at work and some murdered for their work. The word killed was changed to murdered. Also, the original headline included that “only six journalists have been killed…” Some readers objected to the word “only,” and we have removed it. The graphic has been updated and corrected to reflect the year Kent Heitholt died.

Update: We’ve added Charnice Milton and Kent Heitholt to the list of journalists who have been murdered.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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