Nets limiting use of killer's video
NBC: Decision to air it made with 'extreme sensitivity'Amid complaints from the victims' families and others, NBC and other networks Thursday placed limits on the use of the video diatribe made by the Virginia Tech shooter.
NBC News said Thursday that it will limit the use of the video — material already widely seen on NBC and other networks as well as other video that hasn't been aired — to less than 10% of airtime on NBC shows and MSNBC, its cable network. In reality, executives said, it will be a lot less than that.
The decision follows the airing on "NBC Nightly News" of a brief portion of the tape, which Cho Seung-Hui apparently sent in the two hours between the time that he shot two people to death in a dorm and then killed 30 more in a classroom building before turning the gun on himself. NBC News received the tape via Express Mail on Wednesday and debated over the course of several hours whether to air any of it and what to air.
It decided to air some of the video but has left most of the rest of the tape under lock and key and won't release any more. But that didn't stop NBC, ABC and other networks from receiving complaints and — in message boards run by the networks — comments that showed that some viewers at least thought the networks shouldn't have run the video at all.
"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," NBC News said Thursday. "We are committed to nothing less."
CBS News executives talked about it extensively at their Thursday morning news meeting; CBS News president Sean McManus and vp Paul Friedman also held additional talks before deciding that the video wouldn't be used unless it was approved by an executive producer for an editorial reason.
"The point of it is, we don't want this video to be used as wallpaper," Friedman said Thursday.
CNN president Jon Klein said the channel stopped using most of the video Thursday morning, about 12 hours after it first started televising it.
"We felt that that was the right balance between covering the breaking news of the materials' existence and its content versus gratuitous use, which we didn't want to lapse into," Klein said.
ABC News president David Westin decided before the second hour of "Good Morning America" to air only a brief clip of the video without audio, in part after seeing a "GMA" interview with forensic psychiatrist Michael Wellner, who appealed to NBC News and other networks to stop running the video.
"This a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character," Wellner said. "This is precisely why this should not be released." ABC News said it would likely use only a portion of the video without audio — and even then, only judiciously.
CBS' Friedman said he had sympathy for NBC News because it was faced with tough decisions on whether to run the video and what to run. He said CBS probably would have come to a similar decision in terms of airing the video, though not necessarily the specifics of what NBC ended up doing.
"I'm sure we would have used it because it was part of the investigation and it was part of the story," Friedman said. "Whether we would have made different decisions about how much to use, I don't know."
Klein also said he agreed with NBC's decision to air the material.
"It's never an easy decision," he said. "I think a range of points of view on this are certainly valid at the end of the day."
Fox News said on the air shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday that it wouldn't run the tape anymore.
"These images of Cho are very disturbing — so disturbing that, in deference to the families, Fox has decided that we will not air any more of that tape at this point," the network said on air.