Airing the video of luger’s death unnecessary and unethical

The 2010 Winter Olympic games got off to a sad start. A 21-year-old luger from the Republic of Georgia, Nodar Kumaritashvili, died after a tragic accident during a practice run. As if the accident itself wasn’t awful enough, footage of the young man’s last run played and replayed on major networks, and was even aired before the opening ceremony. It has now spread all over the Internet, which is a sad commentary on the desensitization of our society.

Why was this footage shown at all? Once would have been bad, several times is just tasteless and disrespectful. This man has a grieving family, saddened friends and a horrified hometown. He was a hero there and much more than that to his family. Yet they are all being subjected to this horrible footage. No, the footage isn’t gory or extremely graphic, but it does show the young Olympian hit the metal railing, which would result in his death, and followed by others’ futile attempts at resuscitation.

People were excited about the opening ceremonies, but after watching that, excitement was replaced with sadness and disgust at the media for being so graphic, so disrespectful and so tabloid-like. Some stations even showed the footage in slow motion.

The real issue here, which was overshadowed with the constant video of that poor man’s death, was that the track was not safe. According to NBC, the starting line was moved down, the sides of the track were raised and the metal rails were padded to ensure another accident wouldn’t happen.

It seems to me that just hearing or reading about would have been just as powerful as the video we were shown. I think it is easy to become desensitized in a time when we have access to footage of everything on YouTube and can pull up the most horrifying stories and videos, but there is a time and place for these things. Journalism shouldn’t be about exploiting others.

I was reminded of the footage shown during 9/11 of the people jumping from the Twin Towers. I wish I could go back and not watch it. Reading about it would have been enough for me, and it seems grisly and macabre that we were shown those videos. Of course, some stations did decline to run it. No station made that decision with the luger’s death. It was shown on all the major networks. I don’t think it will be shown again because of public outrage, but it has already been seen, so it is too little, too late.

I took a media ethics course last semester and we talked about journalists drawing the line when it comes to videos and photos that are disturbing. It does seem to be subjective, but I think most know what is necessary and what is not. Sensationalism isn’t news. While being shown some of the questionable pictures in ethics class, I had to leave the room. If the line isn’t drawn for you, you have to draw one yourself.

Christi Aldridge is a senior strategic communications major from Hillsboro.