Media turning tragedy into Olympic shame

by W. Andrew Powell
Vancouver 2010 Olympics

This has been an appalling day for the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and the issue goes well beyond the events on the site of the Olympic Sliding Centre.

While the world mourns the news that Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a tragic accident during a practice session for the luge — a horrible mistake that will overshadow today’s opening ceremonies — many media outlets are shamelessly showing the video of the accident, or plastering photos from the tragedy across their websites.

It is a horrifying thing to behold, and as families gather around their televisions to prepare for the opening events, the image they keep seeing, repeatedly, is Kumaritashvili in his final moments of life.

I do not believe in shielding people from reality — the media is there to report on the issues of the day — but this goes beyond news. CTV, Canada’s official Olympic broadcaster, is playing the footage again and again, needlessly in my mind, and it cheapens everything about the games, not to mention their value as a broadcaster.

Often, the news can be horrifying, as when we see footage taken from war or disasters, but leading into the Olympic games there seems to be no respect at all for Kumaritashvili, his family, or our own sensibilities. I would personally say the media outlets have shown the photos and video in a way that is monstrously dehumanizing, and it’s all in the name of ratings and sensationalism, because I can’t believe anyone wants to see that over and over.

Given a circumstance like this, I would hope that the media would choose not to show the footage out of respect, but obviously those concepts are becoming outdated in the modern newsroom. It’s all about who can get the footage out first, and the fastest. They’re competing with each other, and the Internet, and they figure if they don’t show it, someone else will.

The truth is though, when it comes to an issue like this, the media needs to show some moral fiber for a change, and do the right thing. That footage, and those photos, should be put away, or used with some kind of compassion.

Right now, at the top of every news story, and rerun every few minutes on TV, all I see is more sensationalism in the face of a tragic accident, and a human life that deserved respect.

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Bill Heffernan February 12, 2010 - 8:00 pm

I agree, I saw the footage momentarily after it happened,and needless to say I was sickened by what I saw.As soon as it was reported that the young man had succumbed to his injuries,I was sure that CTV would stop with the footage,but apparently that has’nt happened.Shame on them for showing it and shame on those who are seeking the footage, what is wrong with you people?

W. Andrew Powell February 12, 2010 - 8:20 pm

The Vancouver Sun has an interesting piece about this – – but it has a few stupid statements.

“What is happening is the media are no longer the gatekeepers,” said Hermida. “We are doing our own gatekeeping,” suggesting that people need to decide what we watch. That’s okay if you’re talking about YouTube, but what do you do when the official broadcaster keeps showing the video?

And the media still are the gatekeepers. The Olympics are accredited – you can’t be there unless you were approved, so the MEDIA decided to let this video out and show us these pictures over and over again.

Odette Hobbis February 13, 2010 - 2:46 am

Thank you for posting this. My family and I were thinking the exact same thing when it came on. We were only given a few seconds for the “graphic content” warning. It is so sad that this was paralleled within 5 minutes of the proud Olympic games.
It’s shameful that CTV has had to stoop this low for competing media coverage. This was an awful way to end off the opening Olympic ceremony, and I’m sure many children across this nation unfortunately saw the footage.

I’ve called CTV and left a message, as well as emailing all of their programming sections. If any of us want to stop this we need to ALL call now and approach them with our strong concerns.

This really can’t be allowed.

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