Thursday, April 19, 2007

Advice to Media Outlets Actively Glorifying the Virginia Tech Killer

(A detour from arts/entertainment musings, but this issue is of vast importance, I think) ...

Remember last week when CBS and media outlets everywhere fell over themselves attempting to out-do each other with statements regarding the ethical and moral responsibility they have to readers, in terms of keeping a guy like Don Imus (and his idiotic, patently racist comments) off the airwaves?

NBC's misguided decision to release the contents of the killer's wacko, evil video, still pix and written communications really puts the lie to all of that grandstanding. NBC officials have said that the network "agonized" over the decision. Matt Lauer said, "By showing some of this material, perhaps it will help us understand" the killer's motivations, etc.

That's utter nonsense, and Lauer, the network and its corporate owners know that. The decision, clearly was a business-as-usual situation, with ethics sacrificed on the altar of almighty RATINGS.

Once NBC made its self-serving decision to unleash the nutjob's psycho communications, then the floodgates opened, and EVERY media outlet, including the New York Times, decided to run video and print images of the killer.

So NBC and all the other media outlets have effectively given the Virginia Tech killer exactly what he wanted -- notoriety in death.

Long term, this inevitably will fuel the actions of those who would be inclined to commit these types of atrocities. Here's the message sent: If you crave fame and you don't care if you live or die, simply sent a multimedia package to media outlets and then carry out your evil deeds.

What a horrible message. Will the media outlets apologize if (God forbid) copycat killings take place? You bet they won't. Would NBC or other networks do it all over again? Of course.

Short term, NBC's decision (and that of all the other media outlets) pushed aside the valuable and by large terrific reporting on the students and teachers whose lives were cut short by the actions of a killer who had clearly given so many warning signs about his extreme psychosis (and that's another issue).

So here's my unsolicited advice to those outlets interested in giving more than lip service to the concept (admittedly, an old-fashioned one) of a media serious about living up to its responsibility as protector of the public trust:

1)Immediately STOP airing and publishing images of the killer. Hey, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and all the other print mags, I'm begging you: PLEASE don't place on your covers, or anywhere else, any of those shots that the evil nutjob sent in that package to NBC. You do have a choice. You don't have to submit to the bottom-line bean counters who would insist that you go the sensationalistic route and run those pix to grab more readers. My plea also goes out to weekly newspapers who might be tempted to run those pix.

2)Re-focus attention on those whose lives were lost. We want to see their pictures and hear about their stories, rather than seeing more pix and hearing more background information about the psycho loser who caused this tragedy.

3)GET OFF of the Virginia Tech campus. It's time to let those students, professors and faculty be allowed to begin healing. With cameras and reporters constantly around, that process is going to be delayed indefinitely. Give these kids a fighting chance to recover.

4)Stop publishing stories about the potential backlash against those who share the killer's ethnic background. I don't know of anyone, aside from those already afflicted with the disease of racism, who will blame South Korea or South Koreans for the actions of a mentally disturbed man. There is no backlash. By emphasizing the killer's ethnic background, media outlets are potentially creating the very type of backlash that they are nominally railing against.

No comments: