By now people have heard about NBC News and other television news organizations airing Cho Seung-Hui's video manifestos and then deciding to "dial back" coverage when people considered airing such material questionable. The media as a whole are analyzing the television medium, asking whether it was right for at least one member of the television news community to broadcast material that could be seen as promoting Seung-Hui and his rambling manifesto at the expense of the Virginia Tech students he killed. The usual suspects come up — should the media self-censor, what qualifies as newsworthy, is this a further victory for Seung-Hui, will this promote copycat crimes?
The real question is why do these questions need to be brought up in separate news pieces? Does asking such questions really solve anything, or does the newsworthiness of the Virginia Tech shootings need to be stretched as far as it will go?
I wouldn't ask questions like this except for last week's media frenzy about Don Imus and the comment about "nappy-headed hos" that made Imus potentially unsalable — or salable, it's all in the spin. Last week's hot-button issue was replaced by this week's hot-button issue. An outlet of NBC Universal was featured in both stories.
Frankly, it seems like the entire NBC News division is gaining a little too much publicity for itself, both intentionally and unintentionally. The whole question of whether NBC News was right to use the package Cho Seung-Hui sent the news division is a smokescreen. Seung-Hui sent a Pandora's Box to NBC News. The temptation for an exclusive was just too strong. Even though the local authorities were contacted and everything was okayed before the video was disseminated, NBC News should have recognized what the package was: a PR campaign for Seung-Hui. That's all his videos really amount to in the end, B-roll.