Some News Media Defend Using Disturbing VA Shooting Images


The New York Daily News and New York Post have had what the New York Times calls withering criticism for using stills from Vester Flanagan's video of Wednesday’s killings of two Virginia journalists, with critics charging that the newspapers sensationalized the killing. The Daily News was roundly criticized for its front page. Under the headline “Executed on Live TV,” the paper published three stills from the video, which showed in chilling succession Flanagan pointing his gun at Alison Parker, a local news reporter, and opening fire. He also killed cameraman, Adam Ward; both worked for WDBJ in Roanoke. The Daily News defended its decision to use the images, saying they were “a definitive part of the story, however disturbing and horrific.”

The Boston Globe took a different approach, posting a still picture on its front page from the footage Ward was recording when he was gunned down. The New York Times “decided against running the pictures because they were deeply disturbing images that showed the act of killing,” said Matthew Purdy, a deputy executive editor. At ABC's “World News Tonight,” anchor George Stephanopoulos said, “Something we wrestled with today: whether to grant the gunman his last wish by playing his video. We will not.” CBS played 23 seconds of Flanagan's video in its evening newscast, stopping it right before he began shooting. David Rhodes, CBS News president, defended the decision. “Using the material we did, we helped people understand the degree of premeditation behind the attack,” he said. “If you don't show some of what we showed, you can leave people with the impression that somebody just snapped.”

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