Should news outlets run graphic shooting videos?

December 7, 2022 | 'I don’t see the point in not telling the full story.' (Eric Wemple, media columnist at The Washington Post, on WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Videos showing a suspect shooting a Virginia TV station’s reporter and cameraman on live TV Wednesday have many news organizations grappling with how to handle the horrific images.

Videos appear to show 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan shooting reporter Alison Parker, and photojournalist Adam Ward, who were interviewing Vicki Gardner near Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County Wednesday morning.

Parker and Ward died as a result of their injuries and Gardner is in stable condition.

Erik Wemple, media columnist at The Washington Post, says many news organizations are showing restraint with the videos and aren’t posting them directly to their websites or putting them in their broadcasts.

Some TV stations and websites are only airing parts of the videos preceding the shooting or still images from the videos. He notes also some are not airing “screams and shouts, which are just as jarring and chilling as anything involved in this entire tragedy.”

Still, Wemple says screening the videos helps the public understand the event.

“If you really want to understand enormity and the horror of what happened, I’m afraid airing the video is one way to get that across,” he says.

“I don’t see the point in not telling the full story,” Wemple adds.

News outlets are not showing the images and posting the videos because, as the The New York Times put it, “we didn’t want to force people to see it,” he says.

“I think that’s coddling the audience a little much,” Wemple says.

He adds that people understand that this is newsworthy and they can see it and then move on.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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