The Society of Professional Journalists issued a statement on the shooting of Spectrum News 13 journalists in the deadly Orlando shooting spree in Pine Hills. A 9-year-old and another young woman were also murdered in the local shootings.
Here is the full statement from the SPJ, which includes a call to news managers to create and review safety action plans and a reminder to journalists to be prepared for possible danger or violence:
The Society of Professional Journalists sends its deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Dylan Lyons, a Spectrum News 13 reporter who was killed Wednesday afternoon while covering a shooting just outside of Orlando. SPJ also wishes Spectrum News 13 photojournalist Jesse Walden a quick recovery from critical injuries sustained during the shooting.
“This horrific tragedy underscores the dangers journalists face every minute of every day,” said SPJ National President Claire Regan. “Journalists covering war zones are embedded with troops to keep them safe. But journalists covering their own communities don’t have those protections. It is always a shock when journalists become victims while covering their own communities. I hope Dylan’s loss and Jesse’s injuries strengthen appreciation for what we do to keep the public informed. We emphasize the importance of news organizations doing everything they can to keep their journalists in the field safe.”
Lyons and Walden were covering the death of a woman who had been found shot earlier that morning, when the suspect in the woman’s killing returned to the scene and opened fire on the journalists, according to Orange County Sheriff John Mina. Following the attack, the suspect walked into a nearby home and shot a woman and her 9-year-old daughter, who died of her injuries.
Friends and colleagues of Lyons, 24, said he was passionate about his job and community, and excited about his future in journalism.
Journalists enter the field every day to keep their communities informed. While many acknowledge the risk of reporting in war zones, this is a reminder of the dangers journalists face in the United States.
“It is unclear if [the suspect] knew if they were news media or not,” the Sheriff said. “We’re still trying to work all of that out. That vehicle was almost exactly in the same spot as the vehicle from the homicide this morning. So it’s unclear why exactly they were targeted.”
Although it seems there was not an imminent threat when the Spectrum News 13 team arrived on the scene, SPJ emphasizes the importance of reporters’ safety while in the field. SPJ offers guidelines aimed at helping television news managers create safe working conditions for multimedia journalists.
SPJ calls on news managers across the country to discuss safety guidelines with their staff and create or review an action plan. Journalists should never experience danger or violence, but they should be prepared in case it happens. Safety recommendations are also provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and UNESCO.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.