Elon instructor contributes to international coverage of LAX shooting
Social media reports by J McMerty, director of the "Elon in L.A." program, found worldwide audiences on Nov. 1, 2013, when his flight landed in Los Angeles as a shooting unfolded inside the airport.
Jason "J" McMerty '00 landed in Los Angeles on Nov. 1 in the midst of an airport lockdown following the shooting death of a TSA officer, and he quickly became a source of information for ABC News, the BBC and other media.
McMerty, a School of Communications instructor who directs the Elon in Los Angeles program, was returning to California following several weeks at Elon. As his flight from Raleigh-Durham was landing at LAX, the pilot used the intercom to address passengers.
“'Full disclosure here, folks,'" McMerty recounted of the pilot's remarks. "'There is an active shooting at LAX. You can get off the plane, but the airport is on lockdown so you will not be able to leave.'”
McMerty began taking photos and video of the airport lockdown with his iPhone and uploading them to Instagram, a social media photo- and video-sharing platform. His first media contact was from a BBC radio producer who wanted to talk with him on air.
“When I walked out of the terminal, it was a strange scene with an abandoned bag claim and all of the people in the lanes of traffic where buses and cars usually move quickly and chaotically,” McMerty said.
His video also showed helicopters overhead and teams of K9 police units moving into the airport.
In posting his last video, he used #LAX shooting as a tag. A producer from ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” asked to use the images. McMerty gave permission with credit to “J McMerty, Elon University.” The video aired on the Friday night newscast of “World News” anchored by David Muir.
Producers for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) in London called McMerty three times for updates from the scene outside of Terminal 4, one terminal over from the Terminal 3 shooting.
In addition, the sudden coverage from LAX brought McMerty in contact with Olivia Hubert-Allen '10, an interactive and engagement producer for KQED Public Radio in San Francisco. She contacted McMerty following one of his tweets about the LAX situation and asked to use his photo.
When a Fox 8 producer in Greensboro, N.C., saw McMerty’s name and Elon affiliation on ABC “World News,” he emailed McMerty and arranged a Skype interview that aired in the Piedmont Triad on WGHP-TV Fox 8.
“All in all a tragic day," McMerty said, "but the iPhone is a powerful tool in many ways in a situation like this.”
- Information provided by Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications at Elon University