Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anything for Ratings

As we told you last week, NBC's "difficult" decision to air the, ahem, "manifesto" of the Virginia Tech gunman had everything to do with ratings and little to do with journalism.

Sure enough, Variety reports that the Cho Seung-hui video put NBC Nightly News back in first place, edging out ABC's World News for the week. NBC's "win" was the result of its Wednesday night broadcast, when it aired the killer's video and still photos for the first time. Without the manifesto "exclusive," ABC would have won the weekly ratings battle.

Appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show yesterday, NBC News President Steve Capus and anchor Brian Williams defended the decision to air the manifesto, describing it as "good journalism." With a collective shudder, we can only imagine what they would define as "bad journalism." In a heated TV ratings battle, apparently anything is fair game; standards of taste, propriety and decency be damned.

Shame on NBC (again), and shame on Oprah for giving Capus and Williams a forum to justify their decision. The Nielsen numbers are the only explanation that we need.

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