Media rush fans racial strife

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Five Dallas police officers dead. Seven wounded, some in critical condition. Sniper bullets raining down from the sky. And much of the carnage playing out before our eyes, live on national television. 

It’s the type of unfolding situation that producers don’t particularly enjoy facing in a control room. While coverage of such tragedies can draw huge ratings and even earn awards, it can come at a cost if something horrific happens in front of a camera lens.

{mosads}Exhibit A was last night on Fox News and CNN, where video feeds showed officers lying motionless on the ground and an officer being killed from behind.

Covering an unfolding story as accurately as possible and as close to the scene as possible are basic tenets of television news. Bad things can happen without warning on live TV, meaning some graphic footage can’t be avoided.

But to replay video of officers down and being killed is way over the line — and that’s exactly what happened last night before a stunned audience watching at home. 

CNN’s Don Lemon even invited play-by-play from the person who filmed the police officer being killed. Ismael Dejesus walked the CNN audience through his footage, describing what he witnessed from his hotel room and what was about to happen next. Fox did the same, albeit through a feed of coverage by local Fox Dallas affiliate KDFW. 

Airing the footage was irresponsible. Every time that kind of video gets replayed — on TV or YouTube — it only makes matters worse by almost normalizing such attacks. 

Other media notes on Dallas coverage:

The New York Post wins the dubious award for most dangerous and hyperbolic cover of the year with this:  

It’s a New York City tabloid, so it’s supposed to grab attention. But is there anything resembling standards or ethics anymore? 

Brian Williams came out of the bullpen to anchor coverage for MSNBC and NBC News last night, his third time on the network since his suspension last year. Some at 30 Rock are likely wishing he wasn’t available for the relief appearance, however, after the veteran newsman kept filling time by repeatedly alluding to the JFK assassination that happened in Dallas 53 years ago. 

How bad was the reaction? Williams was actually trending on Twitter last night, and for all the wrong reasons. He said, for example, the Kennedy assassination was the “most violent day for most Americans,” 9/11 notwithstanding. He also held up the aforementioned New York Post cover (because it needed national attention, right?) and declared, “Let’s hope this is wrong.” 

Actually, let’s only hope Lester Holt is available next time.  

CNN was uncharacteristically late on live coverage of Dallas, as in more than 30 minutes late. Was it because the network was in taped programming and had no anchor or resources available? Nope. The aforementioned Mr. Lemon was doing another panel on gun violence on “CNN Tonight” while Fox’s Megyn Kelly was showing footage from KDFW in Dallas.

Exactly how CNN was asleep at the wheel — given its vast resources and experience — is an absolute head-scratcher. This kind of situation is supposed to be its bread and butter, after all.

Overall, it was a bad night for America and a bad night for its media. 


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