News juggernaut CNN has been resoundingly criticized for showing the WDBJ shootings at least “once per hour,” according to U.K. newspaper the Independent. Ultimately, CNN did pull the video altogether, but not before criticism had abounded about the decision to air it in the first place.
— pankaj mishra (@pankajontech) August 27, 2015
— Julie Grauert (@JulieGrauert) August 26, 2015
Journalist Dan Kennedy asked some of his followers to weigh in about whether or not the video from the shootings should be aired.
@dankennedy_nu Against: Not giving the people who commit these crimes an ounce of recognition.
— John (@JTHeavey) August 26, 2015
@dankennedy_nu Certainly sharing a screen grab of the shooting suspect for ID purposes is important as he is still on the loose.
— Tim White (@TimWhiteRI) August 26, 2015
Dan Kennedy raised an intriguing question when he asked, “Why is it defensible for a news organization to show the Ward video but not the one Flanagan took?” The question is an important one — the shootings of the WDBJ reporter and videographer Alison Parker and Adam Ward were extremely graphic, and while the video that shooter Vester Lee Flanagan took as he was gunning down the reporting team was incredibly disturbing, it is no less newsworthy. CNN recognized that the video of the shootings was extremely graphic, prefaced any moment where they played the video with the appropriate warnings, and handled any reporting with the sensitivity it required.
Why, then, was CNN slammed for showing the video once hourly? Journalists across the country were highly sensitive about the fact that this was a killing that occurred live, and realized that the danger they all faced was not just in a war zone. CNN was doing what any other news organization would do — they reported about the biggest story of the day, and replayed the video as required. There were those throughout the day who had not been made aware of what had transpired in Virginia, and an editorial decision was made to carry on and show the video in spite of the thousands of people that had witnessed what happened live.
CNN is no different than any other news agency, though it may have the dollars and infrastructure to gain greater notoriety because it is an international organization. It is still subject to the same editorial decisions and codes of conduct as any other agency. CNN is also eager to secure and improve ratings, as any news channel is. Why would they not run the video? Yes, CNN had to recognize that showing the video of the Virginia killings would have brought continued trauma to the WDBJ newsroom and the families and loved ones of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, not to mention those of Vicki Gardner, who was also injured in the crisis.
The video of the live interview has since been removed from YouTube, and at one point yesterday, CNN said it would no longer show the video. CNN has gone through what every news station has gone through in receiving heat for showing this video — CNN has determined that the video was, indeed, newsworthy. Unfortunately, sometimes the human condition — the emotional wounds that people go through in the aftermath of a tragedy — requires greater sensitivity than a thought of how newsworthy a video is. While CNN did focus on the news, CNN also made the right choice in pulling the video. The news for WDBJ and for the families of those killed and wounded in Virginia is just too raw right now.
[Photo by Jay Paul / Getty Images]