Should NBC release the full video content from Va. Tech killer?

    by Mark Glaser
    April 19, 2007

    One of the harsh realities of the democratization of media is that everyone can get that global distribution online, whether they are hate groups or terrorists. So what is a news organization to do? NBC received a videotape from Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people on campus on Monday in a bloody rampage. Blogging pioneer Dave Winer says NBC should release the entire contents of the tape as downloadable QuickTime files online. “[NBC is] sifting through them and deciding what to release and what not to release,” he wrote. “It’s 2007, and it’s a decentralized world. We should all get a chance to see what’s on those videos.” So far, NBC and other networks have been showing limited parts of the video, and even pulling back on showing it in the face of protests. What do you think NBC should do? Should they put the whole thing online? Where do you draw the line on objectionable material, and when does it start to glorify the killings? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments journalism videos virginia tech

    16 responses to “Should NBC release the full video content from Va. Tech killer?”

    1. Randy Allen says:

      By putting anything about the killer on the news glorifies him and gives him what he wanted-a sick memorial. If any picture should be put on about the sick-o, it should be as he ended with his own hole in his head in all its gore and ugliness-so others that seem so anxious to follow can see what he really looks like now. This probably is too gruesome for some but just like the picture in the Vietnam execution, it stays with you and doesn’t lend itself for a glorious memorial.

    2. Mich Nom says:

      NBC should not simply pick and choose what to be released. They already made the decision to air the footage, so they should release it in fullness so that people can get more answers.

      If they felt people were only deserving of partial answers or none at all, why did they release it? The media has already lost any integrity in ethics, this facade of pretending to care is sickening.

      The Killer has already accomplished his goal of becoming “infamous” regardless of whether or not the video is shown only 10% of air time.

      The media response that the Sept 11th attackers and extremist beheaders have garnered couldn’t have gone better for their sick ideology. Those videos are ingrained into peoples’ minds all over the world.

    3. vanni says:

      Only the CBC in Canada, chose not to be a ratings-chaser, and did the responsible journalistic choice: No images, No video. Good on them. Shame on the rest.

    4. Lorena says:

      I have only followed this story in print.

      I know the news anchors are not equipped with the appropriate skill set to discuss the impact of the images they are airing. I would prefer to see the video discussed by experts in the field of psychology or psychiatry.

      Assembling an expert panel to discuss, the implications of the video and the effect it could have on the Asian community, and the public viewing it would be responsible journalism.

      If as Tim Godaman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on 4/19 NBC has ushered in a new era of multimedia in news reporting, that the new era will include discussion by the experts.

    5. Lorena says:

      Correction: Tim Goodman

    6. Sue says:

      I don’t think that NBC did anything wrong by showing the multi-media information that was sent to you from Cho.

      By showing some of the snipets, this maybe will give more insight to other schools/businesses, etc.to have a better understanding of what to look for preventing any future sadness. Bottom-line, no one has control over what someone does. If they have the will to do harm, they will find a way.

      How are we certain that if someone had really checked Cho into the hospital for a lengthy time, that he still wouldn’t have done this. He would have had to been locked up forever – the key thrown out to prevent him from doing what he did.

      Hindsight is so wonderful – I just wish people remembered what it means!! Who truly can predict what tomorrow will bring – not to mention what someone will do or not do.

      We can talk, plan, etc. until we are blue in the face and these horrible things will still happen. Then we will go through all this charade again – blaming others – why didn’t they prevent this, etc.

      Not to mention now that the lawyers will be coming out of the woodwork – you’ve got it – sue someone. Isn’t that becoming the American way. No one has control over when they will die – no matter how it happens!

    7. Mary says:

      In this age of radical transparency, it is very hard to keep a famous skeleton in the closet. There is so much interest in the full contents of the Cho video that sooner or later it will find its way online. The choice NBC has to make is how the video will become public. Will an intern or mail room attendant sneak out out a copy and post it on his/her MySpace page for some quick publicity or will NBC present the video is its proper sober context, as evidence made public to help Americans understand the troubled mind behind the catastrophe at Virginia Tech?

    8. Jim says:

      Having worked in news, I totally see the newsworthiness of the tape. However, playing the tape only gives this disturbed killer what he wanted – his 15 minutes of fame on national television. It also sets a dangerous precedent for future nut jobs to go out in a blaze of glory and get famous.

      Police always fear copycat crimes when tragedies like these occur. Why give motive to a host of lonely, desperate souls searching for a way to standout?

      Everyone was aghast at the possibility of O.J. Simpson releasing a book about how he “might (wink, wink) have done it.” Why should we show any less outrage over a taped confession?

    9. Sheila says:

      NBC should have been more of a passthrough for the material, but it should be out there. It’s up to us to decide how much of it to “consume.” (We can make anybody’s problems our problems.)

      I’d like to see a news channel that worked like the like the AP wire (aggregated news feed), moving all the stories as they came in. The writethroughs of The Big Story would take their place in the rotation, so you wouldn’t miss any developments.They’d just have to give “the crawl” to the anchor to read. The new crawl could be the stories you never hear about on Big Story days.

    10. IMHO, they should release all or nothing.

      I did recently (today) mask a phone number on a 911 call we published on the site…

      K. Paul Mallasch – Publisher

    11. Every channel has a right to telecast with it thinks is news and worthy of knowing. Having said, so, let us not forget that over exposure and publicity is what killers and terrorists survive on. The channel has the duty to expose the misdeeds of the killer and show information that gives insight to his psyche but should refrain from telecasting material that may lionise him and damn others. Gory deeds need not be put on the sreen .

    12. Shalom Coleslaw says:

      What about partial censorship? The killer often referred to “you”. You did this, you did that. Well what if the “you” he was referring to is George Bush? What if these killings were a result of Bush’s War and Bush and Chaney’s poor treatment of Americans and the people of our planet? Is it right to censor out Bush’s name and leave an entire country wondering what would push a person to do such a thing? Giving people only a partial story will usually not result in an accurate story. If you don’t believe this type of manipulation of a country is possible, please check out the lies Bush and the Bushies have spread about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch.

    13. yolanda ortiz says:

      In my Managing News Websites class we were recently discussing our thoughts on the media coverage of the VA shootings and the release of the video.

      My initial response is it should not have aired. People say airing it gives us answers, well what answers are those exactly? Cho had problems….well that is obvious. Cho was mentally ill…seeing that we know he was sent to a mental facility (twice) I would say that was obvious as well. So why did he do it? That is what everyone wants to know, but i don`t see how viewing the whole tape will answer this. He did it becuase he was a sick individual that did not value his life nor did he value the lives of his fellow hokies.

      Then as a Journalism student I believe that it is news. He made the tapes, pictures, and writings and sent them to a news organization between the attacks. That is definately newsworthy.

      I think the fact that Vanni pointed out earlier about Canada`s CBC not airing any of the material is interesting. Mainly because our friendly neighbors have one of the lowest if not the lowest (not quite sure) crime, murder rates.

      Which brings me to my next thought. If I were one of the people deciding if, when and how the whole video would be released I would be worried that it would get to the eyes of the wrong person. Why should we fuel some one else`s fire by broadcasting the thoughts and ramblings of this sick individual. So we can give other mentally ill, troubled people pointers?

      Cho does not deserve the “glory” he is getting. It was obviously part of his plan for these things to air and I don`t think he deserves the satisfaction.

      NBC did their job as best they could given the circumstances at hand. The bottom line is people want answers and coverage. They want to know that it is not being overlooked, but it doesn`t matter how many times officials and psychological experts review the material. No one will ever know exactly why he did what he did and no matter how many times people watch the video, it does not give anyone absolute answers and it won`t prevent something else horrible from happening.

    14. yolanda ortiz says:

      I also want to add after clicking on the link at the bottom of this page to the AP story “Backlash leads to pullback on Cho video” that is posted on Yahoo, that it is a bit twisted that it is posted in the “Entertainment” section on Yahoo……

    15. DC says:


      NBC has an ethical responsiblity to do so.

    16. sam says:

      I need to see all of the video. I have many questios and think it should be shown online with a consent that you are at least 18 that way you only have to see it if you want to.

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