There was some uproar over the airing by NBC of the multi-media manifesto it received from the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre. And, indeed, there was reason for those fearing other disturbed individuals might ape what Cho Seung-Hui did to worry. The moved upped the rating of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, according to a Nielsen Media Research survey.
Consider: an estimated 8.57 million people watched NBC’s nightly newscast the week during the massacre. And that’s only NBC. The Virginia Tech massacre generated attention from millions of people worldwide.
In this sense, one can chide NBC for playing the ratings game. But who won’t? And when you are a practicing journalist, you would be foolish to put in the garbage can Cho’s multimedia manifesto at a time when people were hungry for information on the killing and most importantly its perpetrator. There was no way then that Cho’s manifesto won’t be aired.
But I agree that some form of limits should be put in place. The goal is to inform the public on what went inside Cho’s mind after the first shootings, and what motivated him to go on a rampage. When that is achieved, airing the other contents of the multimedia manifesto would be useless and even malicious.
I do not really agree that every deranged person out there would go on a similar shooting rampage after seeing Cho’s video. It’s a rather simplistic interpretation of why the Virginia Tech massacre happened. A deeper study should be conducted on the link between killings and what their perpetrators see in the media. Only then can one be able to provide the correct balance between exercising press freedom and advancing public welfare.
–Candido O. Wenceslao, April 25, 2007