The head of NBC News said the decision to air images, writings and video of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was “good journalism” and the network showed restraint by paring down what would be made public.
NBC News President Steve Capus, who appeared with “NBC Nightly News” anchorman Brian Williams on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” acknowledged images that “wallpapered” the media were uncomfortable to view.
“Sometimes good journalism is bad public relations,” Capus said. “These are very difficult decisions.”
“Remember, this was days after the incident,” he said. “The largest question out there was ‘Why?’ ”
Capus said the package from Cho arrived at the New York headquarters at 11 a.m. two days after the shooting. NBC officials sifted through the material and waited until 6 p.m. to air parts of it.
“We hit the brake pedal,” Capus said.
NBC decided to show two minutes of 25 minutes of video, seven of 43 photographs and 37 sentences of 23 pages of written material.
Williams, who said the repeatedly shown images became too much for his family to watch, said the story was too important not to air.
“However uncomfortable it is, it proves this was journalism,” Williams said. “This was news and a material advance in the story.”
The parents of two students killed in the shootings also appeared on the show, but they disagreed about whether it was appropriate for the network to broadcast Cho’s images and audio.
Tony Sherman, the father of Leslie Sherman, said it was not.
“I want this period of time, at least for now, to focus on my daughter, her achievements and all the other kids,” he said. “I just don’t want to focus on this ... one sick individual that did this.”
Holly Adams, Leslie Sherman's mother, said she was grateful the material was shown.
“I was at least able to focus on the enemy and not blame myself,” she said.