NBC acted as best as it could in Cho video

When a chilling multimedia package containing 27 video clips, 43 still pictures, a 23-page document and one audio clip composed by cold-blooded Virginia Tech murderer Cho Seung-Hui arrived on NBC’s doorstep at Rockefeller Plaza Wednesday morning, the station’s editors faced a difficult decision.

They held in their hands a firsthand account of Cho detailing his twisted motives. With such information comes tremendous responsibility. NBC had the power to shape public perception about the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. But should it provide viewers the valuable details they deserve while giving the gunman the publicity he clearly wanted?

It had to be an incredibly difficult decision to make, but on its “Nightly News” broadcast, NBC aired video clips, pictures and words from Cho’s package. And the broadcasting corporation handled its reporting as tastefully and tactfully as it could have.

Before even thinking about putting the information on the air, NBC contacted the FBI so investigators could begin looking at the vital material. NBC executives understood that it is more important to contribute to the case than it is to immediately post breaking news.

But NBC also understood the public has the right to learn as much as possible about the killer. Most will never understand Cho’s motives, but everyone deserved to hear them. If NBC knew details but didn’t expose the pertinent ones, it would not have been doing its job.

Before releasing any footage or sound bytes, though, Brian Williams made sure to preface the broadcast by saying the station knew it would be “airing the words of a murderer.” And NBC had to be careful when doing this. If people who share Cho’s beliefs think a violent rampage can warrant mass exposure of a killer’s message, airing an overload of footage could inspire copycat actions.

Cho’s actions themselves mimicked past rampages. In his statements, Cho made reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the 1999 Columbine High School murderers. Cho’s motives, lifestyle and tactics in many ways mirrored the two Colorado killers.

And Wednesday, Boston University experienced a copycat threat following Cho’s massacre. Part-time BU student Andrew Rosenblum told a woman he dated that he wanted to recreate the Virginia Tech shootings at her Wheelock College campus.

But sadly, these threats will surface regardless of whether the media provides all the information or not. As a journalistic enterprise, NBC News had the responsibility to tell the story as it developed. And by carefully combing through the material in the package, NBC offered the most current and telling story it could.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the editorial board of The Daily Free Press of Boston University. It was made available through U-Wire.