LETTER: VT editorial, NBC wrong


LETTER: VT editorial, NBC wrong


Issue date: 4/20/07
Section: Opinion

The Daily Free Press's editorial sounded like it was taken straight from the NBC anchor's monologue, complete with the required clichés of "difficult decision" and "responsibility to tell the story," ("Airing murderous motives," April 19, p. 11).

It gave NBC every benefit in assuming its goal here is to selflessly provide "the story."

"Before even thinking about putting the information on the air, NBC contacted the FBI."

This sounds great, and it was very humble of NBC to do that, but was it true? It seems to me the more likely timeline was to first make copies of everything, contact the FBI and finally slap the NBC logo on each frame before starting the round-the-clock replays.

A more interesting analysis for the editorial could have been to walk through that journalistic decision making process: Does a mass media outlet weigh the good or bad that might come from their exploitation of a situation?

I can easily think of many bad outcomes from this such as additional psychological damage to the victims and their families and the obvious danger of inspiring the next mass murder out there.

The editorial said Cho Seung-Hui copied previous killers, so it acknowledges that there is a real danger. Perhaps his words are being written into some other loner kid's notebook right now.

The editorial does, however, dismiss this danger: "These threats will surface regardless of whether the media provides all the information or not." This is a weak justification (might as well make drugs legal, people will do them anyway). That excuse is also an attempt to remove the mighty responsibility which comes with the journalism profession.

As far as the good from showing the video, I can't think of anything beyond profiting from human misery. Does anyone feel better knowing the final thoughts of a killer, or seeing what must have been the last thing all of those innocent people at Virginia Tech saw before they were killed?

Please let me know what benefit we receive from the telling the killer's story that could not have been conveyed in a summary paragraph of what he sent. Think about the difference between reporting on the package (we received a package with a video which show the killer felt alone, picked on, angry at the rich etc.) compared to fulfilling the last wish of that cold-blooded killer and giving out every word of his manifesto.

Which has a greater chance of inspiring some other unstable person out that? Who knows which sentence or image will be latched on to?

There is such a thing is right and wrong in the world, and in this case, NBC was wrong.

David Stifter
CAS '01, GSM '06


Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.dailyfreepress.com/media/storage/paper87/news/2007/04/20/Opinion/Letter.Vt.Editorial.Nbc.Wrong-2871466.shtml>The Daily Free Press - April 20, 2007</a>


David Stifter


The Daily Free Press




Sara Hood


Matt Negrin <editor@dailyfreepress.com>




David Stifter , “LETTER: VT editorial, NBC wrong,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 27, 2022, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1036.