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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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There is a level of outrage over the decision by NBC News, and hence this NBC affiliate to air the rantings of the mad man who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech this week. "You're giving him exactly what he wanted," is a common criticism.

Perhaps that much is true. Like other mass murderers, perhaps Cho Seung-Hui sought infamy. To the extent that airing the video all over the world helped him achieve that, it is unfortunate.

That said, you've got to air the video tape. As hard as it was to hear the things Cho said, to see the things he did, and to watch a young man unravel before our eyes, it was important to see nonetheless.

Our Lauren Lemancyzk has been in Blacksburg, Virginia since the day of the shooting. She told us today, "... a lot of people here did want to hear what he had to say."

In the hours immediately after this tragedy, and in the days that followed, we have all asked "why?" Passing on this video to our viewers is our attempt to help you answer that question. This package was an explanation from the killer of why he did what he did.

No doubt more questions remain, but this gives us an idea as to why Cho did what he did.

We've written books, done documentaries, and made movies about bad people who did bad things throughout history. We don't hide their deeds or their intentions and explanations. We examine them so we might understand and learn.

On the latter point, we do worry about copy-cats. Will people seeking the same infamy as Cho now execute the same disturbing behavior? It is a legitimate concern, especially since amid his ramblings this guy invoked the names of the Columbine killers, who made a similar video before their violent end.

I think we learned from those two, however. We learned from their writings. We learned from their videos. We learned from their actions and their parents' ignorance. We learned "it can happen anywhere." We learned some parents truly have no idea what their children are up to. We learned suspicions may be well founded and must be reported. By talking about these deranged youths and feeling free to expose their motives and intentions, we may have saved lives.

Think about the story up in Green Bay, with the 3 teens who were plotting a Columbine style massacre at East High School. A fellow student rose up and reported their suspicious behavior because he knew it could actually happen. He saw the warning sings; he headed the warning, and their plot was foiled. The awareness raised by the coverage of Columbine and other events over the years probably saved lives in this case.

From these rants we've learned a lot about bullying. We've seen what kids who think they've been pushed around their whole lives are capable of. We've recognized that we must intervene early in the lives of bullies... and their targets. Teachers are more aware of behavior at school. Counselors are more aware of the potentially serious impact of actions early in childhood.

Here again we've got another young male apparently rebelling against perceived hatred and mistreatment. We will learn something from this too.

Already NBC News is limiting the continued exposure of the material released by Cho. That's the right thing to do too. Okay, it's out there, we've seen it. Let's move on, but it was important for NBC, and for us to share it with you, as disturbing as it was.




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