Poynter faculty members Al Tompkins, Jill Geisler, Kelly McBride and Bob Steele gathered Thursday to discuss NBC’s decision to air parts of the package it received Wednesday from Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui. You’ll find podcasts of those discussions on this page.
Pasted below are two statements sent to Poynter Online by e-mail: one from NBC News president Steve Capus about the network’s decision to air parts of the material, the second from executive producer Jessica A. Ross of WSLS TV Roanoke about the NBC affiliate’s decision to ban future use of much of the material. WSLS announced its decision after the podcast was recorded.
The statement from Capus of NBC:
entire community of Virginia Tech.
First, it is important to note, NBC News has broadcast only a small fraction of the material we’ve received. In total, there are more than 45 photos, more than 23 minutes of video tape and 23 some pages of written materials. We selectively chose certain limited passages and material to release.
Prior to the release, we worked very closely with law enforcement
authorities. They asked us to remain silent about the material until they had a chance to review the content. We naturally abided by that request. We handed over to the FBI all of the original documents in a quick manner with the expressed desire to do anything to help investigators. Indeed, we appreciated the acknowledgment by the Virginia State Police during their press briefing yesterday, of our handling of this incident.
Some 7 and 1/2 hours passed before we aired the first video from the material, and again it was done in an extremely limited manner. Our Standards and Policies chief reviewed all material before it was
released. One of our most experienced correspondents, Pete Williams handled the reporting. We believe it provides some answers to the critical question, “WHY did this man carry out these awful murders?” The same decision to run this video was reached by virtually every news organization in the world, as evidenced by their coverage on television, on websites and in newspapers.
The pain suffered by the Virginia Tech community and indeed the country is real and will last forever. I believe our coverage to date has been handled with great sensitivity. We are committed to nothing less.
Thank you for taking the time to write. I hope you appreciate our difficult position — and that this e-mail offers some understanding.
The statement from Ross of WSLS:
Initially, NBC and WSLS made the decision to air all of the images as a new development in the investigation. It was the first insight into his state of mind when he committed these unthinkable acts of violence. But again, we no longer feel it is newsworthy to air certain images or to broadcast his words.
We will strive to be sensitive about our coverage of this story and work to honor the memories of the victims.
Newschannel 10 welcomes your feedback on any of our coverage as we follow this story in the days and months to come.