Since releasing the excerpts from the package sent by Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui, NBC News has received more than just a little criticism. Indeed, this story is so big that every little nuance… anything remotely connected to the story is being put under a microscope and reported on ad nauseam. Ironically enough, the decision to air the material delivered to NBC News has become itself a news story.
If not for the “gift” left by Cho, the media would be filling all of that airtime and every available inch with anything and everything it could discover about this “seriously disturbed individual.” Cho saved the media a huge amount of legwork and opened insights about what drove him. Did he get what he wanted? Some are saying that by airing this “manifesto,” Cho has ultimately won.
But think about how ridiculous that sounds. Cho is dead - and he’s not getting any better. Last I checked, to get any enjoyment or satisfaction from an act, one must be alive to experience it. Furthermore, even if Cho could somehow relish his media spotlight from the grave, he would soon realize that no one agrees that he was any kind of victim. He would be crestfallen in the discovery that he is being regarded - at best - as “a seriously disturbed young man.” Mostly he’s being viewed as some kind of homicidal whacko.
For those with a religious leaning, I’m guessing that Cho’s last act earned him a one-way ticket straight to Hell. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Yet he is somehow enjoying the last laugh? I don’t think so. Does this coverage intensify the pain of the community, the survivors and the victims’ families? Undoubtedly, but surely they would understand that news of this magnitude must be reported. Even without Cho’s help, there would be extensive coverage of Cho - a disproportionate amount.
But even without considering the civic responsibility of the news business, let us remember that it is a business. If no one tuned into this stuff, no one would report it. People want to know, despite how much they say they don’t. The numbers don’t lie. Did NBC and others overdo it? Was there more coverage of Cho’s package than “necessary?” That’s a matter of opinion and judgment. But to say that NBC had a responsibility to quash this information is nonsense. They have a responsibility to report it.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.