How much is too much?
Victims' leaping from flames tests news judgment
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/16/2001 8:00:00 PM
News executives had no difficulty conveying the horror of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The struggle in newsrooms was deciding how much horror to transmit.
CNN opted to show the victims leaping from the World Trade Center as part of a correspondent's package last Tuesday night. Executives decided it was more responsible to show a few brief seconds than running 10-20 seconds of footage separately.
"We certainly have to be judicious, but we don't want to shield people from the horrific reality," said Eason Jordan, CNN's head of newsgathering. He added, "If you show only the smallest snippet in the body of a story about the horror, that's more appropriate that showing one person going to the ground."
But MSNBC won't show jumpers, extreme bloodiness and victims' bodies. "It was not necessary," President Erik Sorenson said. "You can imagine, looking at the tower on fire or collapsing, the horror that was for those people who were inside."
CBS aired footage, although a spokeswoman said the scenes didn't show people landing. Fox's two New York stations showed snippets. The NBC network showed jumpers once, but WNBC-TV says it has a policy not to show the desperate acts.
Fox News network executive producer Bill Shine said he regretted his network telecast footage once or twice. "That was early, it was wrong and accidental. We have [other] video in house that we've purposefully not shown and will not show," Shine said.
Instead of airing jumpers, an ABC spokesman said, the network showed two women at the scene shrieking in horror as their eyes followed the descent of one body. "We thought that was a better way of showing the horror of the situation without being gruesome," the spokesman said.
—Dan Trigoboff and Steve McClellan contributed to this story
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