Broadcast murder

Yesterday’s live broadcast of the execution of two unsuspecting Virginia television journalists was shocking, but in many ways simply represented the elevation to a new level of the digital era and violence.

“The shooting and the horrifying images it produced marked a new chapter in the intersection of video, violence, and social media,” said the New York Times lead story on the killing of reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward.

Not only did Vester Lee Flanagan II, a disgruntled former reporter for the local station where the victims worked, carry his own camera to record his gunning down of the two in the midst of a liveshot early morning interview, he then took to Twitter to write about the killings and posted his own video to Facebook. He also resorted to ancient technology by faxing to ABC News a lengthy manifesto which, the Times reports, “spoke admiringly of mass killers and said that as a black, gay man he had faced discrimination and sexual harassment.” (Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gunshot after later being pursued by police.)

The killings have prompted a predictable flood of commentary on how much of the graphic footage should be shared or viewed, and what ought to be done about gun violence in a country that claims less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly half of all civilian-owned guns in the world.

The New Yorker‘s Nicholas Thompson likens the gruesome slaughter to the videotaped desert beheadings that have become the searing image of evil in the Middle East. “In brutality and media savvy, it was as if ISIS had come to Virginia,” he writes.

There was plenty of online urging that people not share or watch the video, which seemed disrespectful toward the victims and to give Flanagan exactly the attention he sought. That impulse is understandable, said The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler. But, he argued, “rather than cleanse newscasts and websites of the on-air killing, producers and editors should make it easily available to their viewers and readers, because our society unfortunately needs vivid reminders of the awesome, life-stopping power of firearms.”

He goes on to decry political pressure that has blocked attempts to have the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study ways to reduce gun violence as a public health menace just as the government looks to promote safety in all sorts of other areas. Picking up on that theme, the Times‘s Nicholas Kristof writes that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued seven pages of regulations on ladder safety, though ladder accidents claim just 300 deaths per year versus some 33,000 annual firearm fatalities.

The National Review condemns efforts to use yesterday’s shootings to make a case for stricter gun laws, arguing that none of the most popular such proposals — assault weapon bans and limits on magazine clip size — would have prevented yesterday’s carnage. Though details are still sketchy, the magazine said Flanagan apparently obtained the handgun used in the shootings from a store and therefore was subjected to a background check.

Vox brings some statistics to the debate that make it hard to argue that the saturation of guns in the US is unrelated to our outlier status when it comes to firearm homicide in Western democracies, with a rate 15 times greater than Germany’s. More than two-thirds of US gun deaths are from suicide, an often overlooked statistic, but one that is also closely tied to the availability of guns, with far higher suicide rates in states with higher gun ownership.

The explosion of social media as part of everyday life and the abundance of guns make for a particularly toxic potion. It seems chillingly reasonable to expect that this won’t be the last example of it.




Sen. Will Brownsberger explains why his percentage of roll call votes missed is the highest in the Senate.

The chief justice of the state’s Probate and Family Court says all pending private adoption cases must be reviewed to make sure the children have legal representation looking out for their interests. (Boston Globe)


Problems in Lawrence: The city is facing a severe housing crisis, a new report says.(CommonWealth) Police have made more than 30 drug arrests in the last two months on and around Water Street, where the Boys and Girls Club is located. (Eagle-Tribune)

A Fall River city councilor is demanding the Fall River Housing Authority and the state tear down four blighted buildings that have been empty and boarded up for years. (Herald News)

Residents of Shelburne Falls are reluctantly talking about the innocence or guilt of their most famous resident, Bill Cosby. (Metrowest Daily News)

A Boston Herald editorial pans City Councilor Bill Linehan‘s proposed city tax on liquor sales to fund addiction treatment.


The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has sent a letter to the Taunton City Council saying a determination on allowing the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to take land into trust in the city for a planned casino will be made in the next 30 days. (Herald News)


Marco Rubio showcases his conservative views on everything from climate change to Planned Parenthood in a New Hampshire campaign stop. (Boston Globe)

UMass Lowell pollster Joshua Dyck says presidential polling is largely useless now. (CommonWealth)

Robert Sullivan, in the Jesuit publication America, continues his political tour of the 50 states in the run-up to the to the 2016 election with a look at New Hampshire, which plays an outsized role in the process despite being “one of the whitest, most rural, and least religious states.”


Walmart says it will stop selling assault rifles because of declining demand. (Time)

A Braintree man whose parents emigrated from Argentina has been tapped as the first Hispanic president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. (Patriot Ledger)


A middle school teacher in West Yarmouth admitted having sex with a high school student, according to a letter written by state education officials and obtained by the Cape Cod Times.

Simmons College is dropping its on-campus, women-only MBA program and replacing it with an online program offered by an outside vendor and open to men and women. (WBUR)

The Peabody School Committee hires the retired superintendent of schools in Salem on an interim basis, agreeing to pay him $158,400. The deal required a state waiver because the interim superintendent already receives an annual pension of $118,622. (Salem News)

Parents in Winchester are mounting a recall drive against all five members of the town’s school committee because they are angry over the lack of information shared about the departure of Winchester High School principal Sean Kiley. The town superintendent announced earlier this month that Kiley had resigned; he says he has done no such thing. (Boston Globe)

A Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed says the push to spur colleges and universities to spend more of their endowments could have a negative impact on all nonprofits by setting a dangerous precedent.


Massachusetts hospitals had a good year in 2014, amassing combined earnings of $1.2 billion, despite growing pressure to cut costs and deliver care more efficiently. (Boston Globe)

A UMass Dartmouth professor has begun a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if married couples can influence each other to lose weight. (Standard-Times)

PureTech Health, a Boston company whose CEO describes it as a “next-stage biopharma company,” is quietly seeding startups aimed at tackling a range of health care challenges. (Boston Globe)


A video captures a bus passenger carrying a child throwing a drink on an MBTA driver, which sets off a shoving and shouting match. The driver gets suspended. (WCVB)

The fancy-pants glass structure at the under-construction Government Center T stop is defective and must be replaced. (WHDH)

Boston-area drivers lost 64 hours last year to traffic gridlock. (WBUR)

West Bridgewater police stopped 78 drivers during a sting operation and cited 34 with texting while driving, including one man on a motorcycle. (The Enterprise)

US Rep. Michael Capuano urges state officials to find a way to push through with the suddenly much more expensive Green Line extension to his hometown of Somerville. (Boston Herald)


Hartford’s homicide rate skyrockets as the rates in the larger cities of Springfield and Boston remain flat. (MassLive)

Owen Labrie, the defendant in the St. Paul’s prep school rape case, was the only defense witness called, and he denied raping the 15-year-old alleged victim in the case. Regardless of exactly what happened, Yvonne Abraham says there is something pretty twisted about the place, where senior boys openly brag about their conquests over younger female students. (Boston Globe)


Donald Trump and Jorge Ramos were made for each other. (Politico)

The evolution of magazine covers tells us something about ourselves and our society.


Amelia Boynton Robinson, a champion of voting rights for blacks in the 1960s, has died at the age of 104. A picture of her, beaten unconscious and left for dead during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march, was featured in newspapers and magazines around the world. (New York Times)