Friday, April 20, 2007

Responsibility of the Media

Received this letter as a forward from a friend. Working in TV and film I try not to land on projects that are violent, or exploit violence, but it's difficult because so much of production includes or relies on violent themes from the news to features and shows. I wish that more people would express this point of view to media execs - or vote with their remotes and their feet away from violent programming.

From: David Markle
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2007 11:20 PM
Subject: Regarding your recent decisions

Dear Mr. Williams:

I feel that full disclosure of my emotional involvement in this matter is warranted before I discuss my problems with your recent actions.

My name is David Markle, and I am a Virginia Tech Class of 1998 graduate in Computer Engineering. Both my brother and my sister are also Tech graduates. One of my brother’s professors and my sister’s sorority sister were both murdered this week. I and a great many of my friends had classes in Norris Hall, so this all hits quite close to home for me. This being said, I hope you will not take my comments as a purely emotional response to last night’s broadcast.

I am going to try to explain to you why I, as well as many others, find your recent airings and web postings of the murderer’s publicity materials so upsetting.

The murderer sent you his package for the express purpose of you broadcasting it. With your broadcast and web postings, you dutifully fulfilled his wishes. You have sent a message to current and future psychotic individuals that the way to get their message to the world is to cause as much mayhem as possible, and that this behavior will be rewarded with your compliance with their wishes. Your action, more than anything else I have seen after this tragedy, greatly increases the danger of an act like this recurring. You need look no further than the contents of the messages you received to know this – the killer’s references to the Colorado murders of a few years ago validates the idea that extreme attention paid to murderers will inspire other unstable individuals to commit similar acts.

In your “vlog”, you mentioned how conflicted you were, and how newsworthy these materials were before you published them for the world to see. Let me ask you this question: wouldn’t it be newsworthy if, on June 5, 1944, NBC news learned that the Allies were to land at Normandy instead of Calais? You and I both know that although the answer to that question is “yes”, your duty as Americans would have prevented you from disclosing that information. Your duty as a human being and as an American is no less clear in this matter.

No doubt some may compare your actions to those of the Washington Post in 1995 when they printed the manifesto of the Unabomber. In that case, the Post did so with the consultation of law enforcement, and as we all know, it led to Ted Kaczynski’s subsequent arrest. Your actions were conducted unilaterally, and after any good could have possibly come from them.

The news media in the 20th and 21st centuries has become a very powerful instrument in affecting change in the world. Terrorist ideologies are spread by it and sometimes wars are started using it. We don’t need you to add incitement of the criminally insane to the list. But please don’t apologize to me, to the families of the murdered, or to the wounded. Save your apologies for the victims that are yet to come.


David Markle


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