Journalism or Opportunism: Did NBC Step In it Again?
How do you feel about these images?
Much as they may resist it now, many journalists felt an awful sense of completion when these photos came across the transom. Before NBC News dug them out of the lump of madness mass killer Cho Seung-Hui express mailed to them, police and press had a tough time piecing together the story of a quiet loner who suddenly decided to kill as many of his schoolmates as he could in the most brutal mass shooting in recent history.
In the videos he recorded, some of which NBC played Wednesday evening and Thursday, viewers saw the barely-coherent ramblings of a man who had objectified al the frustrations of his life into a single, nameless group -- classic signs of severely disordered personality, according to the many experts interviewed in segments Thursday.
Still, many in the public objected to giving the killer the widespread publicity he clearly intended with the mailing -- sent just before Cho committed the bulk of the killings Monday. Two families of victims canceled interviews with NBC News Thursday morning, and the network spent all day explaining its dissemination of the images, via anchor speeches on the Today show, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC.
By midday, NBC News had issued this statement: "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. 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 and Policies chief reviewed all material before it was released. One of our most experienced correspondents, 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 decision to run this video was reached by virtually every news organization in the world, as evidenced by coverage on television, on websites 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."
But evil network TV outlets and newspapers weren't the only one who used the Cho photo. His arms were open wide on the home page of the Huffington Post Thursday morning, gats in hand like some odd mix of SWAT dude and cowboy.
Still, by Thursday's end, every TV outlet had done a story on the question of whether the video should have been used and most promised to limit or eliminate its use from their airwaves -- even Entertainment Tonight claimed to be taking the high road by not showing clips from Cho's "multimedia manifesto." It was a tough buffeting for NBC News, which had already spent a week in the media wringer over the Don Imus scandal. Experts at the Poynter Institute debate the choice here.
Personally, I think NBC News screwed up by placing its logo so prominently on the images it released. Though it is standard practice to make sure every usage of the photo reminds people where it came from, in this case, it made viewers think NBC News was trying to profit from a killer's awful media strategy.
So what do you think? Did NBC go too far? Or was this journalism we all needed to see?
Alec Baldwin Loses it On His 11-year-old Daughter
How do you get back at a blowhard movie star dad who curses you out on a voice mail message? If you're 11-year-old Ireland Baldwin, you leak your dad's abusive voice mail to TMZ.com, and watch as a Golden Globe-nominated actor is revealed as the kind of guy who will call his pre-teen daughter a "thoughtless pig."
Listen to the 30 Rock star's tirade here, if you can stand it. Considering that a judge has scheduled a hearing on Baldwin's visitation rights, I'm betting somebody has some anger management classes in his future.
UPDATE: Baldwin offers his side, if you can call it that, in a posting on his Web site here. He's also drowing in guestbook comments from folks who are not so forgiving.
Daily Show Uses Kid Gloves on Steve Stanton
When I heard everybody's favorite news satire was coming here to send up the Largo city manager who wanted a sex change, I feared the worst.
Turns out, the only people who needed to fear were the knuckleheads who wanted him fired. Check out the show's piece, titled "Suddenly Susan," here or in embedded video (story doesn't actually start until about a minute into the playback):