Much has been written on the murder of Nick Berg, and Wizbang played a large part in that coverage. I’m grateful for the appreciative comments and mail, and respectful of those who disagree with our coverage. One of the ongoing debates in the wake of the release of the video of the beheading is the role (or lack thereof) of traditional media outlets in the coverage of Nick Berg’s murder. There is an interesting discussion at PressThink on the larger meaning of the dynamics of the story in the new media age.
Regardless of how you feel about the availability of the video, millions of people viewed the video even though big media would not provide it to them, an issue sure to confront media organizations more often in the future as Jay Rosen alludes to in the closing of his article.
Way, way underneath these debates I find a disturbing fact. Even the smartest people in the major news media–and this is especially so in television news–have not really determined for themselves or explained to us exactly what their role should be in the worldwide fight against terrorism. “Cover it responsibly and well” doesn’t begin to provide an answer. For it must have occurred to people high up in the network news divisions that the videotape of the beheading was made not only for Bush but for them, in their professional capacity. That is a fact they have to live with, and think about, whether or not they show us the gruesome act.
We are a long, long way from coming to grips with the fact that political violence worldwide incorporates media coverage worldwide. Terrorism can be many things, but it is always an attempt at communication; and a free press in an open society “completes” the act. So it’s not true that Al Queda kidnapped and beheaded an American. Al Queda kidnapped and beheaded an American and videotaped it in order to shock and sicken us when we found out. It’s not easy to decide what to do with that if you run a news network. But there is no option not to decide. There may have been a time when news judgment and political judgment could be kept safely apart, but that was an era unlike our own.