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Man's live suicide likely won't change L.A. news

Public outrage over the live broadcast of a nearly naked man shooting himself in the head on a freeway prompted TV stations to apologize Friday for the graphic coverage.

However, it's unlikely to change the way news is reported here, where live helicopter coverage has become a ratings-grabbing necessity.

"This was a sobering event and it also was not the first time we've covered breaking news that has had a depressing ending," KCAL news director Dennis Herzig said Friday.

"After every event, and after last night, everyone in every newsroom in Los Angeles sits down and thinks about what we do," Herzig said. "And you take that experience and body of knowledge and the next time you go out to cover a story, you rely on that knowledge."

Cameras were trained on Daniel V. Jones, 40, for nearly an hour as he sat in his the truck, getting out at least twice to unfurl a banner reading "HMO's are in it for the money!! Live free, love safe or die."

After a fire started in the truck, Jones pulled off his burning clothes, went to the edge of the overpass as if to jump, then backed off, picked up a shotgun and fatally shot himself.

Some TV stations issued on-air apologies and vowed not to replay the violent image.

KCAL was in the midst of a newscast, but other stations broke away from regular programing. Those who cut into children's programs took the most heat.

Cartoons were airing when KTLA cut to the scene at 3:30 p.m. The station ran a graphic indicating a breaking story was about to pre-empt the children's show.

It's "unbelievable that they stayed with it while the man blew off his head," said Donna Dird, who was watching with her 17-year-old son. "You literally saw him blow his head off. It was awful."

On Friday, police said Jones left a videotaped suicide note explaining his motives. In it, the HIV-positive Jones says: "I'm not going to fight the disease. It has affected my neurological system. I'm not going to end up crazy."

_ Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.