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When NBC received the gunman's package, NBC News president Steve Capus says his division reacted like many other news organizations would have. "The first thing, of course, your competitive juices kick in," he says. "But then we did something that doesn't always take place in newsrooms. We hit the brake pedal. We stopped. And we didn't even mention to the world that we had this material. We sat on it all day long, and we waited. And we thought about how to handle it and what to do with it. What was appropriate. What not to show."

Steve says the network decided to air what it did after having the head of NBC's policy and standards group and others look at everything and decide what was unusable, such as "over-the-top profanity and incredibly violent images."

At the time of the report, Steve says, the largest unanswered question was "Why?" Steve believes that airing some of the videos helped give the public insight into that question. "This was a videotape that showed somebody on the edge. Somebody who was ready to blow. … To me, this started this dialogue again about what is going on in America. What about the society? What about the pop culture?" Steve says. "Sometimes good journalism is bad public relations. And I'm a father. Brian is. These are very difficult decisions."

If Steve had to make the same decisions again, would he? "I would. Because I believe it was newsworthy and I believe we handled it with as much sensitivity as we possibly could," Steve says. "This is a great discussion. … But just as when we lost President Kennedy, we didn't diminish any of that pain or the loss by knowing who Lee Harvey Oswald was. And this was a horrible tragedy for America. That's the bottom line on all of it. There's no question about it."
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FROM: The Virginia Tech Videotape Controversy
Published on January 01, 2006

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