NBC Should Never Have Aired the Virginia Tech Video

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NBC Should Never Have Aired the Virginia Tech Video

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By: Jack Myers / <a href="http://blogs.mediavillage.com/jack/">Jack Myers Think Tank</a> (Blog)

May 07, 2007

The more I think and talk to people about NBC&#39;s handling of Cho Seung-Hui&#39;s videos following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the more convinced I am the decision was mishandled and wrong. Roger Delaney of Zephyr Media Group commented "I think that, even knowing that the data would make it into the public domain though other channels, NBC erred when they decided to air Cho&#39;s &#39;multimedia manifesto&#39;. There is no question that he accomplished exactly what he&#39;d hoped to - his heinous actions gave him a forum through which he could spew his venomous message to the entire nation. Did any of us need to see that? Did airing that footage do anything other than grant Cho the postmortem glory he was clearly seeking? And was there any way for NBC to air that footage without appearing to be chasing ratings? The answer to all those questions is, in my mind, unequivocally &#39;no&#39;."

Neale Martin of Ntlec, whose daughter is a sophomore at VT, added, "NBC should never have provided a platform for this lunatic; it will encourage every sociopath to strive toward even more carnage. Even posted on YouTube, it would not have the same impact as being put on broadcast news. My daughter is a sophomore at VT and three classmates from her Monday 8 am class were killed the next period. As a former journalist I am sickened by how low this profession has sunk."

There are endless arguments about free speech, about how the videos would have found their way into the public eye and, of course, NBC&#39;s responsibility not only to the audience but to shareholders as well, for whom any ratings opportunity is more important than issues of the public good.

My initial instinct was to accept that NBC aired the videos, but to criticize both NBC and other networks for the gratuitous promotions they ran and the hype leading up to the news reports. In retrospect, I believe NBC has done great harm to the NBC network news brand, to Brian Williams, and to the overall public perception of network broadcast news. What an extraordinary opportunity NBC had to stand above the obvious commercial opportunism and draw a line in the sand. This is not about military action about which there is ongoing national debate. This is not about a major ongoing news story or about a celebrity or political figure.

This was about one mass murderer broadcasting his message of hate in America&#39;s most prestigious and trusted environment. This was a classically disturbed person who saw the media as his road to immortality - murder was the affect but media exposure was the cause. And NBC, through its actions, fell prey to the most base instincts of tabloid media upon which Cho depended.

What would have been the end result if NBC has moved the videos onto the NBC news website, losing the ratings opportunity? Or what if NBC had simply refused to air the video at all and had turned it over to the FBI? Jeff Beliveau of Consumer Networks asked "Before acting, did my fellow human beings ask themselves &#39;Is what I&#39;m about to do creating good? Or evil? Am I doing nothing other than causing harm by pursuing my own narrow self-interests?&#39;" There are many arguments being used to justify NBC&#39;s decision, and it&#39;s unlikely any other network would have responded differently.

But what&#39;s missing in the aftermath of Virginia Tech is a true industry debate and dialogue on NBC&#39;s decision and the role of network broadcast news in a media environment in which news is ubiquitous and all-pervasive. Do the broadcast networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - have a responsibility to stand above the onrush of tabloid journalism? Is it their responsibility to air or not to air the rantings of crazed killers? Is it appropriate to give those people who have no further rights to be a part of our society the credibility that broadcast network television infers? Be a part of the debate. Let me know your opinion.

Share your comments at <a href="http://www.mediavillage.com/sound_off/">MediaVillage SoundOff</a>.

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Original Source: <a href="http://blogs.mediavillage.com/jack/archives/2007/05/nbc_should_neve.html">http://blogs.mediavillage.com/jack/archives/2007/05/nbc_should_neve.html</a>

Licensed under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/">Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5</a>.

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Jack Myers

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2007-05-27

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Brent Jesiek

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Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5

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eng

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Jack Myers, "NBC Should Never Have Aired the Virginia Tech Video," in The April 16 Archive, Item #270, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/270 (accessed August 23, 2014).