By Lynn Walsh | September 20th, 2011
By: Mike Brannen
When is it OK to air video in a newscast of a deadly event? I think too easily the media would answer: “no way.” But that’s not what happens in reality.
Footage from a deadly plane crash at an air show in Reno, Nev., on September 16 is certainly sensitive in nature. Amateur video captured the moment a World War II-era plane spiraled out of control and crashed by a grandstand. The plane doesn’t just skid down a runway; it nosedives straight down into the ground. The clip that got heavy airplay the following weekend had a “Courtesy: David Wilson” font over the video. It is hard to see the plane crash, but you do see a big smoke cloud rise up, the bleachers shake, and one of the most unnerving sounds I have ever heard. It is chilling, and it gave me goosebumps. One witness said it sounded like “a missile on steroids.” A newer, similar video that came out days later also showed the disturbing crash and aftermath.
I had to produce a Saturday morning newscast, a day after the incident. I chose not to air the crash in its entirety. During my show, I had the video edited to avoid the crash impact, and the corresponding sound of that impact. It is possible that because I was shaken by the video, I felt empathy for someone who might not want to see such destruction. I might be accused of withholding the “juicy” part of the video. But, I felt this was a situation where our station ran the risk of offending or angering our audience by airing the raw clip.