by user Parkdalepictures
The images sent to NBC News by Cho Seung-Hui showing the killer wielding a hammer and pointing guns at the camera have been on almost constant repeat across news networks since last night.
They've been everywhere except for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC-TV). In a letter to staff and posted on the news site for CBC-TV, Editor in Chief Tony Burman explained his decision to avoid showing any of the images that NBC received, including the video excerpts of Cho explaining incoherently why he targeted so many innocent people.
'"At the CBC, we debated the issue throughout the evening and made the decision that we would not broadcast any video or audio of this bizarre collection. On CBC Television, Radio and CBC.ca, we would report the essence of what the killer was saying, but not do what he so clearly hoped all media would do. To decide otherwise - in our view -would be to risk copycat killings."'
Burman saved his harshest criticism for what he sees as NBC's irresponsible decision to show the video and images. '''
'"Speaking personally, I have long admired NBC News and I am sure my admiration of their journalists will endure. But I think their handling of these tapes was a mistake. As I watched them last night, sickened as I'm sure most viewers were, I imagined what kind of impact this broadcast would have on similarly deranged people. In horrific but real ways, this is their 15 seconds of fame."'
It's true. I think many of us in the media have thought about what impact, if any, the Columbine killings might have had on the decision by Cho to do what he did. In one of his confessions he expressed admiration for the Columbine killers calling them "martyrs."
While Burman's column and justification is a reasoned and thoughtful explanation of CBC-TV's policy, his final statement did irk me: '"I had this awful and sad feeling that there were parents watching these excerpts on NBC who were unaware they they will lose their children in some future copycat killing triggered by these broadcasts. "
I think that goes too far. Certainly to lay blame on NBC and most other news broadcasts - in advance - of another horrible mass killing happening simply because they chose to report on the footage, is a disingenuous slippery slope in logic. What Burman is basically saying is, 'this will happen again and when it does, it will be your (NBC) fault, not ours.'
The tone is an unfortunate way to end what is otherwise a smart explanation of the tough decisions a news organization faces in a time of horrific tragedy.
When news people cover events like Virginia Tech, emotions and sympathies are as high as you would expect from any other part of the general population. To the seasoned journalist the careful balancing act occurs when you have to put aside your own personal feelings about the event in question and deliver the information that is required for telling the story properly.
I am always nervous when I hear that images or aspects of a story have been held back to, in effect, protect me.
I think Burman's decision to be judicious when it comes to what the CBC has chosen to air in its coverage of the Virginia Tech killings is indeed justified.
This morning, however, I couldn't help but wonder if in the process they left their coverage lacking.
As I surfed over to CBC.ca to get a glimpse of how they were covering today's news of the NBC package of video and photos - without question the biggest story of the morning - I was shocked to find only one line about it on the site's front page.
In light of Burman's letter that story selection came off as very self-serving. Is it really the most pertinent aspect of the story at this very moment right now? Did excluding any mention of the NBC tapes within a larger analysis portray the CBC as a thoughtful news organization or missing the story entirely?
I guess the audience will ultimately decide.