“I hope this is a wakeup call”: Shooting that killed TV journalist Dylan Lyons sparks conversations over reporter safety

Some journalists believe ending solo reporting and implementing stricter protocols at crime scenes would improve safety
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:10 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Today marks one week since a gunman opened fire in an Orlando neighborhood killing three people, including former TV 20 anchor Dylan Lyons.

RELATED STORY: Former TV20 News anchor, reporter Dylan Lyons shot while covering homicide in Orlando

This deadly shooting is now sparking conversations over reporter safety.

“A journalist is working on 10 different things all at the same time, and looking out for safety concerns... that sometimes is not a priority, but as an industry we need to start making it a priority,” said Chris Post, Safety and Security committee member for Society of Professional Journalists.

Post trains students on reporter safety, which is what he’s doing right now in Beirut, Lebanon.

“I’m covering everything from landmines, to border crossings, to trauma medicine, to how to use a tourniquet,” he said. “Journalists in America, it’s not the same levels of dangers, it’s not the same threats, it’s different threats, but it’s just as dangerous.”

According to a UNESCO study, from 2020 to 2021 most victims of journalist killings are local.

“I hope this is a wake up call,” said Post. “When we lose journalists because of stress and safety concerns, we are losing seasoned journalists who help tell these amazing stories about things happening all across America. The fabric of our communities, those stories are told by journalists,” said Post. “Our free democracy can’t afford that.”

This shooting is bringing journalism students at the University of Florida to have deeper conversations about reporter safety.

“At a job, I would make it more of an effort to ask for help with all this going on,” said Julianna Reichenbach, UF journalism student.

Reichenbach is referring to the practice of being a Multimedia Journalist.

“Honestly being an MMJ is such a learning experience because it’s all on your own,” said Sofia Mendez, UF journalism student. “You have to film, ask people to interview, edit, all that. However, in the world we live in anything bad can go wrong, so I definitely feel like we should incorporate more teamwork.”

UF Journalism professor, Denise Vickers, is having these tough conversations with her students.

“If you don’t feel right let them know, ‘hey I’m leaving this situation, I’m pulling back because I don’t feel safe here’ and they should absolutely support you in that.”

Vickers said she’s stressing the importance of remaining vigilant while in the field.

“When these things happen they impact us personally,” said Vickers. “Even though we didn’t necessarily know Dylan or Jesse ourselves, I know Dylan Lyons because I’ve hired hundreds of Dylan Lyons throughout my career.”

Some students also suggested sending reporters to a secure location, like a police department, until the at-large suspect is arrested.

These suggestions are just a start to the important conversations paving the way for the future of journalism.

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