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Friday, April 20, 2007

NBC should not have shown the Cho video:

Going to disagree with Drum and Atrios here. Their argument is that approval of a decision by NBC to withhold the video from the public is also tacit approval of other (potential or real) withholdings, like on FISA or the SWIFT program or Abu Ghraib.

Not true.

How about taking as the starting point, sensible news judgement.  Yes, "sensible" is a subjective term, but it can be made less so by combining it with objective criteria: number of people affected, issues of political power, exposing falsehoods, product safety, etc.

That's what should be advocated. For what it's worth, Walter Cronkite was complaining a decade ago that the network nightly news had shifted from issues of importance, like how legislation affects peoples lives, and towards segments on "you and your pocketbook". He elaborated to say he was thinking about stories in the "news" that used to be magazine fodder. It would appear that CBS' recent change to add Katie Couric is a prime example of that sort of thing. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be a health-related story in the first ten minutes.

Anyway, to recap, NBC's airing of the Cho video was not a good editorial choice. Because:
  • The video had no value in terms of helping people "understand" better what happened (the Lauer claim). If people want to understand it, then they should listen to doctors and others who have experience with these matters.
  • The video may have a negative public safety impact because it helped Cho achieve one of his objectives - increased public notoriety. Thus enhancing the appeal for other who might consider committing a similar act.
  • The fact the public wants to see something is not a justification for letting them do so. (See Holloway, Natalee)
  • A news organization can make sensible choices not to air "worthless" but sensational items, and at the same time not suppress news of import.
  • Airing the videos shunted aside more important news.
UPDATE: Julian Sanchez takes a somewhat similar view.



3 comments

VIDEO: Virginia's Failure to Follow Federal Law Let Cho Buy Guns
"Under federal law, the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself"

By Blogger Tom, at 4/21/2007 7:58 AM  

We believe that the news media have a responsibility to the public to report the news. We also believe that the media have made grave errors by airing the senseless propaganda of Cho Seung-hui. By airing his videos, pictures, and written manifesto the media have caused unnecessary trauma to his many victims and their survivors. They have also endangered our society by rewarding this heinous criminal activity, which already has and will likely continue to spur copycat activities in communities across the United States and the world. If you agree with our opinions, please sign our petition requesting a public apology and admission of error from NBC News.

newsboycott.com.

You can make a difference, please sign our online petition asking NBC News to stop and apologize for its reckless behavior.

By Blogger news, at 4/22/2007 5:24 PM  

"The video may have a negative public safety impact because it helped Cho achieve one of his objectives - increased public notoriety. Thus enhancing the appeal for other who might consider committing a similar act."

The only way to avoid that is to not discuss the story at all. Unlikely.

"The fact the public wants to see something is not a justification for letting them do so. (See Holloway, Natalee)"

One's a real news story, the other isn't.

"A news organization can make sensible choices not to air "worthless" but sensational items, and at the same time not suppress news of import."

I'll give you this. The sensible choice to me would've been not to air it on TV, but place it on the internet and tell people they can see it there. That way the consumer has the true decision if they want to see it or not.

"Airing the videos shunted aside more important news."

Like Larry Birkhead? Not to be flip, but the video is among the lesser violators of that crime.

By Anonymous roundhead, at 4/27/2007 4:27 AM  

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