ROCKINGHAM — I was downstairs in the Richmond County Judicial Center chatting with one of the bailiffs following a double-murder plea Wednesday when I heard the other two talking about two journalists getting killed.
I asked where it happened and was told Virginia.
My first thought was Mike Valerio, a Richmond reporter I had worked with at WCTI-12 in New Bern several years ago.
When I was shown the photo of those killed, my jaw dropped.
It wasn’t Mike, but another young reporter I had worked with in my television days: Alison Parker.
Alison and her photographer Adam Ward were killed during a live shot for WDBJ-7 in Roanoke by Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of the station.
By coincidence, Flanagan had previously worked at WNCT-9, a competing station in eastern North Carolina, from 2002 to 2004.
Shock and sadness settled in as I recalled her start in the television news business.
Alison came to NewsChannel 12 as a recent graduate of James Madison University.
Her first day on the job, we attempted an iPhone report from Atlantic Beach, but strong winds made the video inaudible.
I spent the next few days driving around the area with her and another new reporter, showing them the ropes, before she was taught how to use a camera by the chief photographer.
While on the road, driving from the west end of Craven County to the Atlantic Ocean in Carteret County, she talked about her college days, family and love of community theater and the outdoors.
Shortly after starting, Alison was moved to the Jacksonville bureau in Onlsow County, covering murders and Marines and everything in between.
Several months before I made my move back to print here at the Daily Journal, Alison left the Crystal Coast for the job in Roanoke.
She was a bubbly blonde with an infectious smile. She also had drive, ambition and a love for what she did.
Being a journalist can be a dangerous job. Former coworkers have been threatened with dogs and guns and we all get cussed out at least once in our careers.
While covering the senseless violence that happens in our society on a daily basis, you never expect the victim to be someone you know.
William R. Toler covers government and public safety for the Daily Journal. Reach him at 910-817-2675 and firstname.lastname@example.org.