In the time between the two horrific shootings that took place at Virgina Polytechnic Institute April 16, the killer, Cho Seung-Hui managed to mail disturbing video clips and pictures of himself to NBC News in New York. While NBC News did contact the FBI about the materials, they unveiled the disturbing images to the American people on the nightly news Wednesday. This insensitive move is representative of the mainstream media’s disappointing coverage of the tragedy, and The Miami Student editorial board finds the glorification of this mass murderer appalling and offensive.
NBC News is effectively giving Cho Seung-Hui exactly what he wanted – a pulpit from which he can speak his insanities. Cho’s chilling and senseless photographs only adds to the pain of the victims’ friends and families and are not worth playing over and over again. In another sign of sensationalist coverage, other networks, such as CNN, aired a running gunshot tally based off of a cell phone audio clip captured by a Virginia Tech student, almost oblivious to the fact that with each shot another innocent person was being murdered.
This theatrical media coverage suggests that the lessons from Columbine have not been taken to heart. In the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine shooting, the media covered the event with a similar circus-like attitude. Contemporary 24-hour coverage has led to poor journalism that thrives on ratings, melodrama and editorialized field reports, all of which takes away from the actual event.
Rather than these sad examples of media irresponsibility, The Miami Student editorial board feels the American public deserve staid reporting. Moreover, rather than glorifying Seung-Hui’s acts, the press should focus more on the victims of his acts. For example, Liviu Librescu, a 76-year-old engineering professor and Holocaust survivor, saved his students by blocking his classroom’s door with his body, sacrificing his life in the process. Stories such as this represent a sign of selfless humanity amidst the horror of the random violence.
In the end, the media coverage of the tragedy has been disrespectful toward the families and friends of the innocent victims. Just hours after their deaths, the media swarmed the college town of Blacksburg, Va. with little regard for the students and families who lived through the violent act. In many ways, the networks’ theatrical coverage has helped to desensitize the American people to the horrors of the April 16 attack. The media should simply allow the tragedy to speak for itself – its horror is self-evident.