Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What Good Could Come from Airing the VT Killer's Video?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What Good Could Come from Airing the VT Killer's Video?

Article excerpt

So, what does it say about NBC that a sociopathic mass murder selected the network to let him get in the last word by airing his dangerous and perverted tapes.

If I were the decider at NBC, I would have said, "Not on my network, jerk." Instead, NBC played into this murderer's hands, and thus makes itself an accomplice to his horrific acts, by flooding the country with his images, making him a hero for every nut job in the country. When the shots ring out the next time, and students die in their classrooms, I hope NBC executives remember.

This opinion is from a journalist who has more than three decades of experience as a columnist, editorial board member, editor and reporter at three major Chicago newspapers -- the Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily News. This is from a journalist who always felt strongly that our job is to inform and enlighten a public that has a right to know.

But like all rights, the freedom of the press is not absolute, and it certainly ought to be subject to wise and prudent decisions by those who practice the profession. That's why it's called a profession.

One critic of NBC's decision is Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant, who appeared on "Good Morning America" today. Sure, that's a competitor's network, but it's still worth quoting him at length:

I promise you the disaffected will watch him the way they watched "Natural Born Killers." I know. I examine these people. I've examined mass shooters who have told me they've watched it 20 times. You cannot saturate the American public with this kind of message.

It's not an issue of blame. It's an appeal [to the media]. Please stop now. That's all. If you can take [talk show host Don] Imus off the air, you can certainly keep [Cho] from having his own morning show.

They turn themselves into icons. They get articles written about themselves in The New York Times. This is perversion. We have to send a message to alienated people, you know what? You hate everybody around you? You're paranoid. You're sad. You're depressed. But these people are perverts.

Welner let the media off easy. By the end of the day, I'm willing to bet that scientific polls will show the public vastly opposed the airing of the tapes, even though the public sat transfixed, watching. …

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