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Reporter, photographer shot dead on live TV

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - A Virginia TV news reporter and cameraman were shot dead during a live broadcast Wednesday morning, an incident that has made headlines and stunned TV journalists across the country.

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A tweet apparently from the shooter of WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward appears to show the shooting during a live broadcast from Bridgewater Plaza August 26, 2015. Handout via twitter

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - A Virginia TV news reporter and cameraman were shot dead during a live broadcast Wednesday morning, an incident that has made headlines and stunned TV journalists across the country.

Police in Moneta, Va., said they are searching for a male suspect who opened fire on reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward as the pair were delivering a live report at about 6:45 a.m. ET. The two were employees of CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va.

Parker was 24. Ward had just turned 27, according to WDBJ.

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Suspect in Virginia shooting of two journalists is ex-employee

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said the suspected shooter of two television journalists on air Wednesday morning has been identified and appears to be a disgruntled former employee from the station, local media reported.

The suspect is being pursued, a CBS News affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington-based WTOP radio said. WTVR, the CBS station, said the suspect was in a vehicle being chased by police.

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The two were reporting from Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Va., a shopping district near Smith Mountain Lake that is about 26 miles east of Roanoke. Parker was delivering a report on the 50th anniversary of the man-made Smith Mountain Lake. A woman that Parker was interviewing at the time was also injured in the attack and was undergoing surgery, according to WDBJ.

WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey Marks said the gunman was thought to have fired six or seven shots. In an emotional on-air report, Marks called the incident "a terrible crime against two fine journalists."

Another WDBJ anchor, Jean Jadhon, fought back tears while discussing the pair and noted "you can hear people behind us in the newsroom crying." She noted the shock of the incident happening while the two were covering a light local feature story.

Mike Cavender executive director of the Radio-Television News Directors Assn., said the incident underscores the growing vulnerability for news crews in the field, no matter the situation.

"Tragically, these shootings are the worst example in a continuing series of attacks on live television crews," Cavender said. "Safety and security of our people is always of paramount concern, but as these attacks show, such violence can occur even in the most unexpected of situations."

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Gordon Smith, president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, called the deadly shootings "heartbreaking and horrifying."

Parker and Ward "were two young journalists who were simply trying to serve and inform their communities," Smith said.

As seen in the video below, Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, about the recreation business around the lake when shots rang out. Parker and the interview subject screamed and began to run. Viewers heard continued screams, saw the camera fall and got a very brief glimpse of what are believed to be the legs of the gunman.

The station then cut away to a stunned news anchor, Kimberly McBroom, in the studio. "Not sure what happened there," she said.

Parker had recently celebrated her 24th birthday. She had been dating another WDBJ employee. Ward was engaged to be married to Melissa Ott, a producer of WDBJ's morning news show. Wednesday marked Ott's last day of work at WDBJ as she and Ward were preparing to move out of the region for a new job that Ott had accepted, according to WDBJ.

Parker brought balloons to the office early Wednesday as a going-away present for Ott, WDBJ said.

Parker was described by colleagues as a "rock star" reporter who had started at the station about four years ago as an intern. She moved on to work a different station for a few years and then returned to WDBJ as a full-time reporter about a year ago.

Ward was described as a dedicated journalist who had worked for the station for several years. He was remembered as a big fan of Virginia Tech's football team.

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Marks noted that the station's news team had intended to have meetings this afternoon to salute Ott on her final day and plan for the future of its morning newscast. But the bizarre twist of fate has now turned those meetings into a memorial for two slain colleagues.

"This kind of loss will resonate around these halls for a long, long time," Marks said.

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By Cynthia Littleton

1967936+0826_SHOOTING-VIRGINIA-VICTIMS.jpg
Alison Parker and Adam Ward are pictured in this handout photo from TV station WDBJ7 obtained by Reuters August 26, 2015. Parker, a WDBJ reporter, and Ward, a WDBJ photographer were shot and killed in Virginia on Wednesday morning while conducting a live interview, and authorities said the suspect appeared to be a disgruntled current or former employee of the TV station. REUTERS/WDBJ7/Handout

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