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NBC must respect both subjects and viewers

The opening ceremony of the Olympics is typically met with fanfare and excitement, both on the part of the athletes and the millions around the world who watch the games. This year, however, misfortune and media irresponsibility have marred an otherwise joyful event. On the day of the opening ceremonies, tragedy struck. Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian luger, died in an accident during a preliminary run on the controversial Whistler track — one that had already been criticized for its high speeds.

News of the Georgian’s death reached televisions and computers around the world less than an hour after the accident. A video of the shocking crash was added to NBC’s videos online and was broadcast many times on live TV as well, evidently without consideration of ethical implications.

Since the incident, NBC has come under well-deserved and harsh criticism. NBC’s actions in this situation were brash and insensitive. While the network has a responsibility to provide the news, it should also have respect for the people involved in the stories. Consultation with the family should have occurred before the choice to air the video was made. Instead, the network ceased to show the video only with the insistence of the athlete’s family, who did not want to see it.

We all know the effect that “shock value” has on ratings, but tragedy should not be abused in an effort to garner viewers. With the quality of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games already in question, we are concerned as to whether the network deserves its exclusive coverage of the games. We hope in the future that NBC, and media sources in general, will give more consideration to the consequences of their actions before proceeding with their coverage. As journalists, NBC editors and producers must have an ethical standard outside their responsibility to their stockholders.