Tag Archives: Reporting

Young. Dumb. Dead

Jamisha Gilbert pictureThis week has been filled with heartbreak in our community.  It started when another young woman went missing and only a few days later turned up dead.
Jamisha Gilbert’s disappearance and her death is so fresh considering we are still grappling over Alexis Murphy.  Alexis, by the way, is still missing and this  week we hit the four month mark since she vanished.
It’s tragic to know that one mother knows where her daughter is (provided little comfort), while another mother still suffers at night not knowing if her daughter is alive.

Add to the mix, the 11 college kids from Washington & Lee who had their lives changed forever this week.  They were all riding in an SUV after a night of “lot’s of fun”, only to crash.  One kid killed.  vigilI’m sure the driver will be charged with
vehicular manslaughter any day.  He’s already charged with DUI.  The thing is, it could’ve been any of those kids behind the wheel.  He was probably just unlucky enough to have the largest vehicle.

Then there was the incident between two friends in Roanoke on Wednesday afternoon.  One of them was handling a gun.  It went off.  The other teenager was killed.  Child’s Play?

In all of these incidents, what comes to mind is young and dumb.  Before you think I’m here to pass judgement, I’m not.  The truth is at one point we’ve all been young and dumb.  I can think of a few things in my high school or college days that could’ve taken me on a whole different path.  For that matter, there were some decision I made in my 20’s that could’ve put me in a coffin a lot sooner.

I’m sure many of you could say the same even if you don’t do it publicly.

What really disturbs me though is how I believe social media has perhaps magnified and glorified dumb behavior.

Explicit warning labels on CD’s,  Rated-R movies and Pay-Per-View were the threats in the “old days”.  Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Vine, YouTube and the list goes on.

In so many of these tragedies now, it’s bothersome  to see these young girls on Facebook and making online videos, just putting themselves out there as a piece of meat.  This week we’ve seen more videos of “kids in the news” readily admitting online that they smoke weed.   How many times have you run across Facebook photos showing underage drinking?

Don’t you know by now that when you do something online you do it in front of the world?  It’s young. It’s dumb.  It’s tacky.  To you young women out there, let me tell you, what you all are doing online isn’t cute and oh yes, there are consequences.  I don’t think that is reason enough to be murdered or raped, but you have to know bad behavior attracts evil.

Parents, you gotta start talking to your kids and don’t wait until they’re 14 and 15.   “Train up a Child….”  And yes, while all children make mistakes (as part of badge of honor to adulthood), we all have to step up and revert back to the “It takes a Village…”

Our kids will be young and dumb, but it is imperative that those of us who survived our poor decisions, protect them from theirs.


March on Washington: 50th Anniversary

Five decades after Dr. Martin Luther King shared his dream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I had a front row seat to history.MOW
On the 50th anniversary of the famous “I Have a Dream Speech”, I traveled to the nations capital to report from the March on Washington.  That was the story many of you saw on our newscasts, but wow where there some other great stories.

I rode up with a group of Roanokers on a chartered bus.  One person asked me not to put them on camera because they called in “sick” to work.  For this person, going to the march was that important.  They’d been alive during the 1963 march.  They were 15-years-old.  They wanted to go then, but like a lot of parents at the time, mom and dad said no, not sure if the March of 1963 would erupt into violence.

Hollani Davis and WDBJ7 Photographer Rob Chewning reporting from the March on Washington August 28, 2013

Hollani Davis and WDBJ7 Photographer Rob Chewning reporting from the March on Washington August 28, 2013

Another person I talked with while covering this story also didn’t go to the March in 1963.  At that time they too were a young adult.  The person candidly and bravely admitted their family was fearful of blacks. By nature, this person inherited some of those same attitudes and it wasn’t until later, they realized we’re not so different.

That was the beauty of yesterday’s event, to watch people of all races and religions gather at the National Mall in harmony.  There was so much bloodshed to get to this point and while we still have setbacks, reporting from the 50th anniversary was a picturesque moment that’ll be with me forever.

All Babies are V.I.P’s

pacifierThere’s something about a royal baby that makes everyone feel a tinge of excitement.  That is the case this week after one of the future heirs of England’s monarch made his way into the world. 

With all of the pomp and circumstance that’s been leading up to this for weeks, if not months, it made me think; shouldn’t every child that enters this world be celebrated and cared for in the same way?  I’m not necessarily talking about money but about ensuring that our children have bright futures.  Forget the fact that England’s newest prince will have the red carpet rolled out for him everywhere he goes.  More importantly, he will be educated, fed and loved.  All of our children, whether they have a title in front of their name deserve these same basic rights.

The Children’s Defense Fund reports:
-A child is abused or neglected every 42 seconds.
-A child dies before his or her first birthday every 18 minutes.
-A child or teen is killed by gunfire every 3 hours.

Miseducated. Misguided. Misled.

I took a couple days off before writing this entry, to how can I put this?  I needed to collect my thoughts. Earlier this week, one of our reporters (Elizabeth Harrington) covered a story about a man in Craig County who has a monkey in his front yard with a cut out face of President Obama.  (The monkey is also wearing an Obama t-shirt).  Needless to say, the man is not a supporter of the President.  I could honestly care less who he likes, but as an African-American the whole monkey thing he’s got going, is completely disrespectful.  I would say the same thing and feel the same way if someone put a big cracker in their yard with a cut-out face of Mitt Romney.

Still, for anyone who chooses to show their emotions this way, it is their First Amendment right.  The guy says he doesn’t get the hatred mentality that his monkey references.  He also says, he has African-American friends.  Personally, I’m not so sure about that.  Friends are different from acquaintances.   I find it hard to believe that African-Americans per se would be your “friend” when you outwardly show a kind of hatred and bigotry that ultimately led to the Civil War and later the brutality of the Civil Rights movement.

If you don’t like someone or what they stand for, fine.  However, when you start reaching back and pulling out centuries old symbols that ultimately led to bloodshed and still scars our country, that I believe is crossing the line.

Still, as I said, I do believe this man has a right to keep this display.  I also believe WDBJ should have covered this story.  Our job is to report the happenings in our community.  Good, bad, whatever you want to call it, we give you the news.  Some of our viewers didn’t see it that way.  Here are a few of the emails we received.

“The airing of a foolish man who dressed up a monkey to look like the President of the United States and hung it on a flag pole with a sign speaks volumes regarding the level of disrespect for the office of the President (regardless of who or which party) some elements of our society are propagating.”  ~Roanoke Viewer

“I think that putting the monkey with the Obama face on it on the news was uncalled for. Why would you give a person who did that credence? Even if it wasn’t racist, (which I’m not sure it wasn’t), it sure was done in poor taste and certainly not newsworthy.”           ~ WDBJ7 Viewer

“There was absolutely no place for that racist to be but on what use to be my favorite news.” ~Roanoke Viewer

I would love to hear your thoughts!

One of my biggest regrets….

Hollani Davis interviewing a student at Axton Elementary School in Henry County, Va.

So, this definitely falls under the category “If I would’ve known then, what I know no.”  I remember sitting in my high school Spanish class thinking what a waste of time it was.  Boy was I wrong.  Even though I was born and raised in New Mexico and surrounded by Spanish, I never learned to speak fluently.  Sure I know the standard greetings.  I know how to conjugate and I can make out a sentence every now and then.  That’s about it.  I’ve gotta say it’s one of my biggest regrets.

I had the chance to do a story recently on Hispanic children in the Henry County school district.  Virginia as a whole is seeing more students come in speaking very little English (or at least it’s not their first language).  The thing is, eventually, they’re learning it.  It’s tough and sometimes seems impossible, but they are learning because of teachers who refuse to give up.

Obviously, a topic like this can turn political, fast.  From immigration, to “This is America, speak English”.  The truth is, if we all sat back and thought about it, when has America ever been about just getting by, or just knowing the basics?  Shouldn’t we pride ourselves on expanding our horizons?

I commend these kids who have two different languages under their belts.  In my book, it makes them a little more knowledgeable and certainly more well-rounded.  Perhaps we could all take a lesson from them.

WDBJ Goes High-Tech

You may have noticed the anchors at WDBJ are looking down a bit more during the newscasts (instead of at the camera)?  Perhaps you’ve seen our pointer finger moving up and down?  That’s because we are rounding out our  second month using iPads in lieu of paper scripts.

At first let me tell you, there was a collective sigh.  It’s one of those things, “if it ain’t broke…”.  But we had no choice.  Our company, like every other business across America, is always looking to improve its bottom line.  Paper is expensive.  I’m told the news department alone goes through 33,000 sheets a year.  What is that,  a big ‘ole oak tree? Add on the cost for keeping 5+ printers going for 7 newscasts a day, ink cartridges etc. and boy does it add up.

So, it’s one of those things, you’ve gotta chance with the high-tech times.  The iPads have probably already paid for themselves in the past 60 days.  Another plus?  We’re being environmentally friendly.  The downside is, if the teleprompter crashes and we have to solely rely on iPads, Lord, help us all!

WDBJ at the White House

Hollani Davis interviews President Obama at the White House. Someone get me a box to stand on. I’m 5’1 1/2. The President is reportedly 6’1 1/2.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC with my news director and one of WDBJ7’s award-winning photographer’s.  We were invited to the White House to interview President Obama.
Before I go any further let me say this.  Yes it is an election year, and yes, we are very much aware that the President is trying to garner support.  I will also say, that our station would have also accepted an invitation to interview Mitt Romney if he was occupying the Oval Office.  But guess what?  Romney will be in Salem, Virginia on Tuesday, June 26th and we’ll be there!

Preparing for the 6PM Live Shot on the South Lawn. Gotta read over that script. No fumbling!

No matter your politics (and I will not divulge mine), going to the White House is an experience.  For me, it was a long and rewarding day.  7AM -12PM.  There was very little downtime.  Between touring the residence, going on a garden
tour, interviewing the president, meeting with several of his cabinet members and other staff, having lunch with his advisers, attending an afternoon press briefing, cranking out 4 stories, you didn’t know if you were coming or going.

Bo KNOWS how to bring in the crowd!

WDBJ7 Photographer Rob Chewning. Getting things set up! He’s the best!

Oh, and I forgot to mention the excitement of Bo (the presidential dog) coming out onto the White House Lawn twice!

Whether or not you like the President and his policies, being in the White House is incredible.

It’s American pride at its best.  You feel like you are watching history unfold right before you, and maybe that’s because in some aspects, you are.  White House staff aids, the Secret Service, even the kitchen staff are always on their A game.  By the way, shot out to the kitchen cooks.  The meal they served for lunch was incredible.

Hampton University alumna Danielle Crutchfield. We met freshman year. Today she serves at the pleasure of President Obama.