How CBS, And Its Competitors, Are Handling The Cho Materials

In an email this morning, CBS News Vice President Paul Friedman instructed staff not to use the Cho video without the approval of an executive producer. He also wrote that stills from the video should be used sparingly.

"In no case do we want this video to be used as wallpaper, in much the same way we did not want to use the video of the planes going into the World Trade Center or the buildings coming down," wrote Friedman.

This morning, the video and pictures were all over the homepage. You could watch the video in the upper left hand corner of the site, and slightly further down on the right side; a large Flash slideshow of Cho's disturbing photos of himself ran in the middle of the page. As of this afternoon, the shooting is the lead story, but the video links are gone from the homepage, and the focus is now on the victims. That's by design, says Editorial Director Dick Meyer.

"We felt we needed to make it prominent during one news cycle, because we have some readers who are primarily at-work users and they may not have had a chance to see it," said Meyer. "By mid-morning it didn't need to be smack dab in the middle. We're certainly sensitive to how disturbing it is."

I asked Meyer if it really mattered how prominently showcased the video, since it is so easy for anyone who wants to find the video to do so.

"From a practical standpoint, no, it doesn't matter for most news consumers," said Meyer. "By this morning, it was omnipresent. It was omnipresent for savvy Web users by 8:15 last night."

ABC News released a statement about how they are handling the video. It reads in part:

We are planning to severely limit the use of the video. Obviously in the first news cycle there's some breaking news value to that video. But once that first news cycle has passed, the repetition of it is little more than pornography.
Here's Matt Lauer discussing NBC's handling of the material on "Today":
There are some big differences of opinion right within this news division as to whether we should be airing this stuff at all, that we're taking the right course of action. But we've made the decision, because by showing some of this material, perhaps it'll help us understand or answer the question 'why?' Why did it happen? If we can examine how a person who can say what he says and then do what he did, fail to be taken off the streets prior to committing these murders. But let me say that while we will show you some of what we received, it will be just a very small percentage. Because to be honest, after you see a bit of it you're going to get the idea. We feel strongly that this is not video that we need to run in some kind of an endless loop, and so we will severely limit the amount of footage that you're going to see.
On "Good Morning America" today, forensic psychologist Michael Welner argued that the videos should be pulled immediately, something that would be virtually impossible.

"If anybody cares about the victims in Blacksburg and if anybody cares about their children, stop showing this video now," said Welner. "Take it off the Internet. Let it be relegated to YouTube. This is a social catastrophe. Showing the video is a social catastrophe."

He added: "This is not him. These videos do not help us understand him. They distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character."