NBC Explains Decision to Air Cho Material

Apr 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

What do you think about NBC News’s decision? Leave your comments and join the discussion here.

NBC News’s decision to telecast portions of the video material it received Wednesday from Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui, material that was disseminated by other print and electronic news divisions, provoked reaction that moved the news division to release an explanatory statement Thursday.

It did not quell negative reverberations, including the cancellation of appearances on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday in protest of the decision made by NBC News. The network also imprinted the NBC News credit on everything released to other media from the package it was sent by Cho.

In one of the on-air moments of recognition that NBC News’ decision was not a unanimous one internally, “Today” co-host Matt Lauer said Thursday morning that there were “some big differences of opinion right within this news division as to whether we should be airing this stuff at all.”

“The Virginia Tech killer’s death wish has come to pass,” Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid said in a statement released Thursday. “NBC is playing into the cold dead hands of a mass murderer, exploiting his paranoid delusions for ratings and profit. This is exactly what he wanted.”

However, Mr. Kincaid also said NBC News should make the entire contents available for “public inspection” on the Web.

The NBC News statement began with an acknowledgment that “the pain suffered by the Virginia Tech community, and indeed the entire country, is immeasurable.

“Upon receiving the materials from Cho Seung-Hui, NBC News took careful consideration in determining how the information should be distributed. We did not rush the material onto air, but instead consulted with local authorities, who have since publicly acknowledged our appropriate handling of the matter,” the NBC statement continued. “Beginning this morning, we have limited our usage of the video across NBC News, including MSNBC, to no more than 10 percent of our airtime.

“Our Standards & Policies chief reviewed all material before it was released. One of our most experienced correspondents, [Justice Department reporter] Pete Williams, handled the reporting. We believe it provides some answers to the critical question, ‘Why did this man carry out these awful murders?'” the statement continued.

“The decision to run this video was reached by virtually every news organization in the world, as evidenced by coverage on television, on Web sites and in newspapers. We have covered this story—and our unique role in it—with extreme sensitivity, underscored by our devoted efforts to remember and honor the victims and heroes of this tragic incident. We are committed to nothing less.”

What do you think about NBC News’s decision? Leave your comments and join the discussion here.