Journalist Tori Yorgey was reporting live for a local television station in Dunbar, W.Va., when she was struck by a car Wednesday night as she covered a water main break and weather that brought snow, ice and slick roads. She hit the ground with a thud and popped back up to finish her live shot.
“Oh my God,” the WSAZ News correspondent can be heard gasping. “... I just got hit by a car but I’m okay, Tim,” she tells the channel’s news anchor.
The anchor, Tim Irr, replies, “Well, that’s a first for you on TV, Tori.”
While many on social media applauded Yorgey’s ability to keep calm and carry on with her broadcast, the incident highlights the risks that reporters can face while doing their jobs — and raises questions about how newsrooms and television stations can ensure the safety of their staffers.
“You know what? It’s a one-woman band,” Yorgey said as she readjusted her camera after the incident, seemingly indicating she was out reporting alone in the inclement weather without a camera operator — a common ask in newsrooms where reporters are expected to juggle roles once traditionally filled by multiple people.
“I thought I was in a safe spot,” she said. “My whole life just flashed before my eyes.” Yorgey and WSAZ did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
New York Times writer Sopan Deb called the footage “harrowing” but said the clip was “a good opportunity to remind people that in most markets, TV reporters are solo, shooting, editing, lighting and doing everything else themselves, while being paid little to do it,” calling such pressures a “safety hazard.”
“I think this incident does highlight the dangers of solo reporting, and the risk associated with journalists who need to perform multiple jobs at once,” said Lucy Westcott, emergencies director for the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. A 2019 CPJ report identified solo reporting “as being one of the biggest risks to female journalists in the U.S. and Canada,” she said.
“When you are reporting alone, your situational awareness is down. We see that clearly in the video,” Westcott said. CPJ encourages journalists “to complete a risk assessment” before they head out. “Ideally, the journalist would not have been sent out alone in the first place. . . . Just having a photographer out there with her, or another pair of eyes, may have prevented her from being hit by a car, which she of course could not see,” she said.
CPJ has “heard from journalists who feel that they have to put themselves at risk, because otherwise they’ll be perceived as weak or not good at their job. That is a problem. I think this video will serve as a learning point as it illustrates the safety hazards associated with solo reporting,” Westcott said.
In the footage, the driver of the car can be heard asking Yorgey if she is okay. Irr tweeted that Yorgey was headed to the emergency room to be checked out “just in case.”
The clip sparked a slew of responses from other journalists on Twitter.
“Glad she’s ok…but if she’s on the side of the road… . Where is her reflective vest?” tweeted Jonathan McCall, an anchor for KRON4 News, a news station in the San Francisco Bay area.
Kylen Mills, also an anchor at KRON4 News, said the footage made her “ill,” adding that she was concerned about what “TV news has become.”
“Running her own liveshot on the side of the road at night, instead of cutting her feed immediately when she’s hit & the camera goes down the station leaves her up live to keep reporting after being hit by car???” she tweeted Thursday.
Jesse Hawila, a meteorologist for WFAA in Dallas, tweeted that the incident was “absurd,” adding: “Stop the dangerous, solo live shots at night. It’s completely unnecessary. A majority of the time, you can’t even see anything behind the reporter.”
Putting an MMJ in a dangerous situation for what? An 11pm live shot on a freaking water main break?? Absurd. Stop the dangerous, solo live shots at night. It’s completely unnecessary. A majority of the time, you can’t even see anything behind the reporter. Glad she’s ok. https://t.co/EVXS0C4wmP— Jesse Hawila (@JesseWFAA) January 20, 2022
ProPublica reporter Nicole Carr called on organizations to “reevaluate their budgets.”
“Stop sending these reporters out to run their own live shots,” she wrote on Twitter.
Stop sending these reporters out to run their own live shots.— Nicole Carr (@NicoleFCarr) January 20, 2022
Figure out when and how to cut out of the shots.
Ensure these anchors have monitors to see the crews in the field.
Reevaluate your budgets.
This is NOT okay. Praying for her long-term well-being. https://t.co/4MAOPSB4sk
On social media, many asked why the camera stayed rolling for so long after the incident, while others criticized Irr’s response.
Irr later took to Twitter to explain that he had only audio of the incident and that he was looking into a tiny monitor to try understand what had happened. “We never know how we’ll react in such a moment,” he tweeted early Thursday.
The incident occurred during what Yorgey said was her last week on the job in West Virginia. She’ll be joining ABC affiliate WTAE in Pittsburgh starting next month.
“I can’t even describe what telling stories does for me,” Yorgey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week. “I really, really like to impact people and make a difference in their communities and try to get the best and most accurate information out to them so they can make the best decision for their lives.”