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NBC’s Shame: Out Out Damn Spot

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UPDATEI Interviewed Dr. Michael Welner today on the massacre and NBC’s shame, and his commentary is excerpted and the interview linked to above.

Howard Kurtz rounds up the reactions and concludes that  “[i]n all the years I’ve been chronicling the media, I have rarely seen the tidal wave of resentment that has washed over television organizations that showed the now-infamous Cho video. In the minds of many Americans, this was a horribly offensive act, and no amount of explanation about the obligations of journalism is going to change that view.”

All of the disgust has its origins in the decision of NBC to air the video and the photos, a decision it made without consulting anyone outside its inbred cloister of media bigs. 

“I’m not going to say we’re oblivious to the comments coming out of the Virginia Tech community,” NBC News President Steve Capus told Kurtz in a tone almost tsarist in its arrogance.  “We understand, we appreciate and we respect their concerns. I’m steadfast in my belief that we did the right thing and we handled it appropriately.”

Capus dismisses all of his many and credential critics from within journalism: Everyone else is wrong.  For the record, that includes these six long-time journalists, and they are just the ones whose interviews I conducted.  Tiny samples from the interviews, the transcripts of which are all linked (the audio for all of them is here):

Howard Kurtz: “I know I’m going to be very, very angry when I see these pictures, if they play any of this video, because in effect, it’s granting Cho’s final death wish.”

Tim Rutten: “[NBC’s] statement is bovine excrement. Look, the only thing this does is to demonstrate that he was insane. Well, none of us had any doubt about that.”

Mark Steyn: “NBC is fulfilling the killer’s last request. That’s disgusting. That’s disgusting, because in effect, you have colluded in this kind of show of slaughter that he’s concocted, and I think that’s disgusting for NBC.”

James Lileks: “What they did was guarantee that the next one will film himself as he’s doing it. And then he’ll upload the video to NBC or some other news organization, and then they’re going to have to explain to themselves why they won’t show that.”

John Podhoretz: “I don’t see how one can view their decision making or their choice as anything but strictly craven.”

Mickey Kaus: “NBC is now the go-to site for serial killers who have videos.”

From the left, the right, and the center, the verdict is the same: NBC acted outrageously, and contrary to the public interest without even a thin cover for its ratings-driven behavior.

If someone does a comprehensive round-up of the posts detailing the disgust with the moral newts at NBC, send me a link, but there is no real debate, no real question about the reprehendsibility of the network’s decision.  Ina country of 300 million, NBC will find some defenders, but the deep and wide disgust will not shift in the weeks and months ahead, but only harden.  When in a few months, or a year or two the next maniac sends the next video of his mayhem, see if Steve Capus is still going to be defending the decision he and his colleagues made to inject poison into the information pipes.  Their shame is not only in the fact that are they the most exploitative and callous businessmen in the history of broadcast news.  Far worse, they are accomplices to murder, for as Mickey Kaus said yesterday, it “is almost inevitable” that there will be future victims “who will be dead because NBC published this.”

Will the flagship of the news division at NBC, Brian Williams’ nightly broadcast, suffer as a result of the taint of having injected the poison?  The Today Show?  Time will tell, but time won’t ever alter the instant and almost universal reaction of contempt for the Capus team.




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