The toughest calls
What do you do if you’re a news organization that has access to footage from the biggest news event in the world? That question becomes much more complicated when that news event is a mass murder.
What do you show? Any of it? None of it? Part of it? How much is too much?
Brenton Tarrant filmed a 17-minute Facebook video of his Friday attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 people. The footage includes his drive to the mosque, all of his weapons and graphic scenes of his rampage. Many media organizations have aired portions of the film, but stopped as he entered the mosque. Even “CBS Sunday Morning,” usually a show with lighter features and personality profiles, showed some of the footage, but stopped when Tarrant began firing. Still, it was jarring.
Tarrant’s footage began circulating online as soon as he began his shooting spree. The Washington Post reported that Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the shootings in the first 24 hours and were dealing with more. About 1.2 million were blocked at upload. (The Post has an excellent video explaining the details of Tarrant’s video on social media.)
New Zealand police immediately asked that no one share any of the videos. Sky New Zealand pulled fellow broadcaster Sky News Australia off the air because it was airing some of the footage.
In a statement, Sky New Zealand wrote, “We stand in support of our fellow New Zealanders and have made the decision to remove Sky News Australia from our platform until we are confident that the distressing footage from yesterday’s events will not be shared.”
But a Sky News Australia spokesperson said, “Sky News, in line with other broadcasters, ran heavily edited footage that did not show the shootings or the victims.”
The Guardian reported that another Australia station, Network 10, also showed parts of the video.
“We are appalled and deeply saddened by the tragic events in Christchurch today,” a Network 10 spokeswoman said. “Like other media outlets, 10 Daily showed footage of the gunman walking towards the door of the mosque. We warned about the nature of the vision in the accompanying story. We did not show any vision from inside the mosque.”
The Atlantic turned to Poynter’s own Al Tompkins to ask how news outlets should handle such cases. Tompkins said:
“My suggestion is not to have an outright prohibition against using graphic images, but I would raise my bar pretty high to say this: Is there any reason why the public needs to see these images in order to understand what occurred?”
At the end of each newsletter, I link to certain stories well worth your time to check out. I do that again in this newsletter, but there is a certain piece of work that deserves special attention today and that’s USA Today’s report on how hospitals are failing new moms. As USA Today writes, the U.S. healthcare system is one of the most expensive in the world, yet America’s maternal death rate is the highest among developed nations. It’s a sobering story with outstanding graphics.
More controversy at Alabama paper
Remember last month when the owner, editor and publisher of a Linden, Alabama, newspaper wrote an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again?’’ Apparently he has run off his replacement. Goodloe Sutton, who remained owner, was replaced as publisher and editor by an African-American woman. Now the New York Times reports that his replacement, Elecia R. Dexter, has resigned. Dexter told the Times, “I would have liked it to turn out a different way, but it didn’t. This is a hard one because it’s sad — so much good could have come out of this.”
The mayor of Linden, Charles Moore, told AL.com that Dexter was “ran off” by Sutton and added, “He never left the building.”
Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro has been suspended, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter. There’s no word on how long Pirro will be out, but her show did not air Saturday night, a week after she questioned Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s loyalty to the U.S. Constitution because of her Islamic faith. President Donald Trump was not happy about the suspension, tweeting:
“Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro. The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well.”
Check it out
Uproxx’s Steven Hyden remembers the “The Paper,’’ a film which is a cult favorite among journalists who recall how newspapers used to be.
The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty wishes C-Span a happy birthday.
In case you missed it, the winners of the National Magazine Awards, also known as the Ellies, were announced last week. The New Yorker was the big winner of the night with four first-place finishes.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
Upcoming Poynter training:
- The Flying Camera: Drone Photography Skills (webinar series): Continues today at 2:30 p.m. EST
How Newsrooms Can Use WhatsApp to Combat Fake News (webinar): March 20 at 2 p.m. EST.
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