Feb 152010
Authors: Ian Bezek, Josh Phillips

NBC’s choice was shameful

By Josh Phillips

Tragedy kicked off the 2010 Winter Olympics when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili perished in a horrifying accident on Friday.

Naturally, NBC thought it would be wise to air the footage of Kumaritashvili’s death on “NBC Nightly News.” Executives based the decision on questioning the safety of some Olympic sports.

While I fully believe they had every right to air the footage uncensored, I find it difficult to understand their reasoning behind doing so. I would argue that they failed to utilize proper discretion in this matter and ultimately capitalized on the athlete’s death rather than respecting his life.

In a world that wallows in perpetual thirst to satisfy morbid curiosity, NBC failed to quell these primal urges by airing the video.  They pandered to our most basic instincts of survival, and while I agree that to ignore our mortality is foolish, I also believe that using it to raise ratings (regardless of intent) is disrespectful of those who have suffered at the hands of fate.

Within minutes of Kumaritashvili’s death, clips were posted online and thousands of net surfers were scrambling to view them. But NBC and the IOC may have made the right choice in claiming copyright ownership and forcing YouTube and other video sites to remove the videos. 

I will admit that I was among those who were curious enough to seek out the video, mostly because the collection of articles and blogs on the Web failed to describe the event adequately. I viewed the clip once, saw Kumaritashvili’s slight overcorrection on a turn, and have not had the urge to watch it again.

NBC thought that presenting the clip just once would not be enough to gratify the perverse enthusiasts who get a kick out of seeing someone’s death broadcast on television.

NBC should be ashamed of its casual approach to this tragedy, but at least they had the decency to try and prevent its mass distribution on the Web.
After receiving several complaints over the weekend, NBC has since ceased airing the clip.

NBC made the right decision

By Ian Bezek

While Josh is probably right in claiming that NBC was trying to raise ratings by airing the morbid video of the Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death, there is greater purpose served by showing the video.

The Whistler Sliding Center was known to be one of the fastest tracks in the world, and several luge teams had, according to the BBC, raised concerns about the safety of the track before the Olympics began.

The International Olympic Committee’s investigation found that (of course) the track wasn’t to blame.

Despite denying all responsibility, the local authorities still decided to change up the track to prevent any further accidents, thus implicitly accepting the blame for the crash.

It was irresponsible and downright inexcusable for the Olympic committee to act as if Kumaritashvili was responsible for his own death despite the concerns that the track was a danger.

In that light, NBC’s decision to frequently air the shocking video makes sense. The people responsible for designing and allowing the dangerous track should be held to justice, and NBC’s exposure of Kumaritashvili’s death may lead to just that.

It is unfortunate that NBC probably made this decision to boost ratings. However, they do have a responsibility to show the truth, even the gruesome truth, when it makes the public aware of tragic, preventable accidents.

 Posted by at 4:55 pm

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