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Virginia Tech — a test of ethics & credibility

Posted by: | November 18, 2009 | No Comment |

Time magazine cover -- Apr. 30, 2007

Time magazine cover -- Apr. 30, 2007

Dr. Jack Censer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, is scheduled to speak to our class on Dec. 1. Our discussion topic will be the media coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre on Apr. 17, 2007.

The most memorable part of the media coverage belongs, unfortunately, to the killer. NBC News received his now-infamous multimedia “manifesto” by mail at its New York City headquarters on Apr. 18. Delivery was delayed due to the killer’s confusion over the proper zip code.

After intense internal debate, NBC decided to air limited portions of the manifesto that same day on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” NBC’s experienced legal reporter, Pete Williams, traveled to New York from Washington to report the story.

The post-release debate was intense on both sides of the argument. Steve Capus, NBC News president, and Brian Williams appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show on Apr. 24 to defend the network’s decision. The American Psychiatric Association, on the other hand, was not so kind.

The story of the Virginia Tech tragedy served as a case study for journalism ethics and the larger issue of media credibility. It will be interesting to hear what Dr. Censer has to say regarding the media’s coverage of the shooting.

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