Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ethics of news video

Okay, I admit I got caught watching a dumb TV show. It wasn’t Cops vs. Bad Boys or whatever, but one step above it. The show was about how news video has been used in recent years to help law enforcement. There were a few ethical issues pointed out in the show.

The segment that caught my attention had to do with (supposedly) the first-ever police chase caught on video by a news helicopter. After a long chase, the car was disabled and the video showed a policeman approaching the car. Gun shots were fired by the driver and then one by the officer, killing the driver. The video was rushed onto the next newscast. The only thing apparent to the news viewers was that the officer approached the car and fired his gun. This caused an immediate public response about police impropriety. It was not apparent that the driver fired first without very carefully zooming in and reviewing it in slow motion.

What are the ethical responsibilities of airing this video without knowing or showing all of the details? I suppose that the TV news thought that they acted in the best interest of the public, but the news was hurried and not complete.

On the other hand, close examination of the video helped to clear the officer of any wrongdoing.

1 comment:

jenopus said...

An interesting situation. In my personal opinion, I think the news station used the clip carelessly. Even if they had restraints on time or something, that just seems a little silly of them. In fact, the way you described it makes it sounds like they nearly libeled the guy. Let's see, publication, yes. Identification, maybe. It depends on how close the shot was. Defamation, most definitely. It made it seem as though the officer was firing at will. I think this is great that news agencies can do that, but they shouldn't let their craving for a good clip get in the way of good ethical journalism. I don't know, maybe I'm just being completely silly.