- Blog post
Virginia TV shooting: Was a reference check done?
Not to cast blame, but today I’d rather be the person in charge of hiring at WAFF-TV in Huntsville, AL, than that person at WDBJ in Roanoke, VA.
The latter station, of course, is the one whose fired former reporter shot and killed two ex-colleagues during a live news broadcast this week before killing himself. The former station, which you may not have heard of yet, is one where the reporter, Vester Flanagan, applied for a job four years ago.
At WAFF, however, Flanagan’s application was rejected. Its news director was quoted in The New York Times as saying he had contacted half a dozen of Flanagan’s references, and decided that he, Flanagan, looked like trouble. The news director was told Flanagan was very difficult to work with, and that he’d even gotten into a “physical altercation” at a Christmas party thrown by one previous employer.
So far, no information has surfaced about the hiring process Flanagan went through at WDBJ, where he worked for less than a year before being fired for initiating repeated confrontations with co-workers. It’s possible that WDBJ did its due diligence, contacted previous employers, learned of his turbulent past, and made a reasoned decision that it wanted to hire him anyway. To say anything else at this stage would be unfair second-guessing.
But still, I can’t help but go back to my original point: Today I’d rather be the hiring manager at WAFF than WDBJ.
Remember, if you inadvertently hire a deeply troubled individual, the trouble that person can cause may not be limited to poor performance. As the Flanagan case shows, it can be lethal trouble indeed. So don’t skimp or rush when checking references. They may save you from a hire that you’ll regret, either mildly and occasionally, or deeply and for the rest of your life.