I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper. I was the Assistant News Editor of my college paper, named an All-American paper (whatever that means), during my freshman year at UP. I was an editorial columnist for the same paper as a senior. And I do not regret forgoing a career in journalism.
Indeed, I am frequently reminded, as I was again yesterday, what a sleazy bunch of money-grubbing, ratings-snatching low-lifes inhabit that sordid world. Obviously some editors and reporters do a fine job, but they seem so few and far between that it surprises me not a whit that members of the media are regarded as even worse than used car salesmen. I’m reminded of the bumper sticker: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
So NBC’s decision to air the Virginia Tech gunman’s manifesto: Anything other than a ratings grab? No. Improve our understanding of the killer’s frame of mind? No, we knew he was nuts. Make this any less likely to happen again? No, in fact maybe the reverse. Contribute in any meaningful way to the enrichment of society? No.
Another prime example of the sensationalist, ratings-first mentality that drives our free press? You bet.
Sure, NBC has a right to air what they did. Hurrah for the First Amendment. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or something that anyone needed to see. (“Needed” being different than “wanted.”) But I’m sure they have no regrets.
Update: The Tapes of Wrath says what I’m trying to say better than I did.