At least two Los Angeles television stations covered live yesterday the fatal shooting of a man by Long Beach officers after a car chase, the Los Angeles Times reports. The shooting came at the end of a 50-minute pursuit that channels 2 and 7 followed with TV helicopters. When the suspect jumped out of his vehicle at a strip mall and allegedly reached for a pistol, the cameras captured a group of police officers opening fire and the suspect falling to the ground.
Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Sheriff Lee Baca have urged TV stations to reduce their coverage of chases, arguing that the intense focus encourages criminals to flee from authorities. “Live breaking news is always unpredictable,” said William Burton of WABC-TV, Channel 7. KTLA-TV Channel 5 News Director Jeff Wald said, “There’s no reason on God’s earth why you need to show an actual shooting.” KTLA did air tape of the shooting on its 10 p.m. newscast. “Maybe we need a five-second delay to avoid exposing kids to this kind of imagery,” said Marty Kaplan of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. The broadcast occurred about 5:30 p.m., when many families gather around the television. “I think the motto, ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ didn’t just fall from the sky,” he said. “It’s well-known that mayhem attracts our attention…. Ever since the possibility of O.J. Simpson blowing his brains out while we all watched him in the Bronco, we have known the power of that stuff to get ratings.”