Skip to main content

A History of Violence Caught on News Cameras

The killings of two TV journalists on-air are the latest in a periodic series of violence caught on news TV cameras for a variety of motives.

The shooting appears to have been the work of a disgruntled employee, Vester Flanagan, who came back to the workplace to exact revenge over perceived harms.

The killer, who tweeted and posted a Facebook video of the shooting, clearly was looking to get media attention for his act of horrible violence.

That live on-air shocker reminded those of us who were covering TV news at the time (1987) of Budd Dwyer, the former Pennsylvania treasurer who had been convicted of bribery, but maintained his innocence, and later committed suicide at a press conference.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been at least five work-related killings of journalists since 1992. Though acts of violence caught on camera are as infrequent as journalist deaths in the U.S., they both have made an unfortunate lasting impression.

In 1998, cameras caught a man on a Los Angeles freeway who set himself and his dog on fire and then shot himself with a shotgun, which prompted an apology from a station for not cutting away on time.

You don’t have to go back decades to find another instance of violence caught on TV. This July, KTVU and KNTV San Francisco were robbed at gunpoint and a camera operator was pistol-whipped while covering a shooting death from the night before.

In 2012, Fox News aired video of a man being chased by police in Arizona who then committed suicide (for which Fox issued an apology).