The (Live)Shot Heard 'Round the World

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Journalists and those who criticize journalism are still talking, and we believe will be talking for some time to come, about the live broadcast last Friday from inside the rented apartment of the couple who carried out a gun attack last week in San Bernardino, California.

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Kerry Sanders.

Most of the attention has been focused on NBC reporter Kerry Sanders who delivered a long live tour of the apartment after the building’s owner allowed the news media full access. It was uncomfortable to watch. As the scene was unfolding many questioned the ethics of the situation. As the weekend came to an end most journalism observers seem to have come to a consensus on the issue:

It was appropriate for reporters to enter the apartment once invited to do so, but it was wrong to broadcast the tour live and unedited.

Sanders Touts NBC Ethics – Huffington Post

NBC’s Terrible Live Tour – Washington Post

Most Awful Thing Ever – Mediaite

Cable Networks Blasted – Politico

Unbecoming Media Frenzy – Columbia Journalism Review

We have sympathy for Sanders, a long time NBC reporter who was no doubt being encouraged by producers at MSNBC headquarters to push forward, while at the same time anchor Andrea Mitchell was attempting to serve as a real time editor, deciding what was appropriate to show the audience and what was inappropriate. Sanders is one of the unglamorous workhorses of NBC News. He is based in Miami, but is routinely flown and dropped into big stories wherever they happen, because he can consistently deliver.

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Andrea Mitchell.

The New York Times also thrust itself into the middle of the debate over gun control and the fight against terrorism by calling for immediate action in a front page editorial published December 4. In the old world of newspapers(pre-Internet), publishing opinion on the front page was considered a big deal. It is unclear today whether most readers, or policy-makers, are moved by such a gesture. With more people getting their news from websites or apps that freely mix fact and opinion, the decision to make a statement by publishing an editorial on the front page carries little weight, except within the small circle of people who made the decision.

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