NEW YORK (AP) — Live shots are a staple — often ridiculed — of television news that have become more risky in recent years even before a Virginia reporter and cameraman were shot and killed on the morning news on Wednesday.
Experts don't expect the live shots' ubiquity to change much, however.
"The reason stations do them is because all of their research tells them that viewers respond to live," said Deborah Potter, executive director of the think tank NewsLab.
A reporter on scene at a boisterous demonstration or out in a crippling snowstorm is undeniably exciting TV. Just as often, someone reports live from outside of a courtroom hours after a decision was handed down and everyone has left or, in Wednesday's tragic case, correspondent Alison Parker in interviewing a tourism expert shortly after dawn.
"Conservatively, I would estimate that half of all live shots are unnecessary," said Paul Friedman, a veteran producer at ABC and CBS News who now teaches at Quinnipiac University.
This summer, San Francisco police arrested a man for armed robbery of television equipment from news crews reporting live from a murder scene. A reporter appeared distracted when the anchor introduced her, because a rival camera operator was being pistol-whipped nearby.
Some television stations in the West have brought security along for live shots in crime-ridden areas, said Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association. The RTDNA is hosting a panel on news crew safety at a convention next month.
New York City police officials said Wednesday they are providing some extra security for television reporters in the aftermath of Wednesday's shootings because of the risk of copycat attacks.
Security costs are prohibitive enough that few experts expect security crews to be used widely, especially at a time when budget consciousness and technology enable several stations to send reporters in the field alone, without technicians or camera operators.
Rubber-neckers who try to cram into the background of camera shots have long been the bane of reporters out in the field. The enticement of brief social media fame has led to a rash of incidents of people interrupting reports to shout something into a reporter's microphone, often men victimizing women by saying something lewd, Cavender said.
The seemingly specific nature of Wednesday's incident, allegedly involving a disgruntled reporter, will also be seen as an argument against changing practices. The mundane nature of Parker's assignment would hardly have made anyone think of extra security arrangements.
Potter said she's been campaigning for years to get stations to cut down on live shots, less due to security and more because there are better uses of a reporter's time.
She's made little headway. She doesn't expect practices to change, although she hoped producers would think more carefully of assignments where a reporter is sent out alone.
"You don't know how to respond because you don't know what you're responding to," Cavender said. "You can't just shut down newsgathering and you can't just keep everyone back at the television station."