Hundreds of Virginia Tech alumni, NYU students and other New Yorkers gathered for a candlelight vigil in Washington Square Park last night. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, who had traveled to Virginia Tech earlier in the week, brought back a candle from a vigil there and used it to light candles last night. And today, many people are also wearing orange and maroon, Virginia Tech's colors, for "Orange and Maroon Effect" day to show support for the school.
Meanwhile, NBC is defending its decision to air Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui's "multimedia manifesto." While Virginia State Police criticized NBC's decision, an unnamed FBI official said that NBC did receive te news. The Times notes that ABC and CBS "led their newscasts last night with the backlash against the use of the images from the mailing." By yesterday morning, NBC did announce it was going to "limit" the airing of the materials, and Newsday points out that many news organizations (including Newsday) got complaints about using them. The Daily News' David Hinckley writes:
The video "has value as breaking news," ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said, "but then becomes practically pornographic as it is just repeated ad nauseam."
Sorry, but to most people pornography is a matter of content, not repetition. If it was porn Thursday morning, it was also porn on Wednesday night...
From almost any perspective, the networks looked bad, as if they were either seduced by sensationalism or simply had no clue America didn't want to see this.
Personally, though I didn't have a vote, I wouldn't have shown the video at all. To me, it played like a gratuitous taunt at the victims and it "rewarded the behavior," as they say in the child-raising business. It told the next disturbed killer he, too, can get his video on television, which is today's ultimate mark of validation.
Still photos and transcripts can convey the information without the visceral impact or any suggestion of incidental glorification. On TV, no matter how carefully you lay out the context, you make a murderer, on some level, into a TV star.
All that said, however, it's a tough call. I think TV execs weighed it seriously. I don't think NBC opened this package and thought it had won the lottery.
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz looks at other opinions about NBC's airing. And 41% of our readers thought NBC's release of the manifesto was deplorable; 34% understood the airing, but thought NBC could have limited the materials even more, while 24% felt seeing the manifesto was useful.
Other: NY Times has an op-ed about building a better lockdown, the Post looks at how Cho was bullied in the past, the Daily News has an editorial "Nutty gun laws kill all" and the Sun has an editorial that looks at the "legal juggernaut" that added up to "paralysis" in dealing with Cho.
Photograph of Washington Square Park vigil by New York Daily Photo