Media Blog

Running with the Devil

NBC released the tapes and photos Cho sent them, and who’s not just a little uncomfortable with their decision? Here’s how they made it:

Package Forced NBC to Make Tough Decisions

Network Says It Debated for Hours Whether to Air Shooter’s Images

Read through and three primary reasons emerge for their rightful hesitation to release the images:

A.) Releasing them might be painful and disrespectful to the survivors and victims’ families.

B.) It might be seen as seamy and self-serving.

C.) It might signal to other disturbed potential-rampagers that no matter what they do, the media will help them get their message out – even post-mortem. Thus incentivizing future violent behavior.

This listing seems to capture the relative priority assigned to each reason. A is valid, of course, but disturbing video probably won’t make much of a marginal difference to people already in so much pain. B is really just a matter of media etiquette. The only thing the media can really do, at this point, is help to prevent similar shootings in the future. But C seems only an afterthought.

Another irony: NBC ultimately chose to run with it because it might give insight into the Cho’s disturbed mind. At the same time, the Times article mentions that the reporters who saw the material thought it to be rambling, vague and exceptionally hard to assemble into any meaningful conclusion. The odd thing is, no matter how well you know it’s all about the ratings, these sorts of decisions are still depressing every time they’re made.

Final Thought:

The press loves to trumpet its public service role (especially since it’s been hungover with guilt about not stopping the Iraq war when they might have had the chance). Any balanced notion of public service has to acknowledge the requirement to both release and restrain information as neccessary to the given situation. Yet, the mass media is only interested in public service in so far as it involves releasing information.

Louis WittigLouis Wittig is a writer and editor in New York City. He writes regularly on media (mostly the frivolous types) for National Review Online and the Weekly Standard Online.

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