The age-old question of whether television news should broadcast car chases is about to begin anew, after Fox News aired an alleged suicide at the end of a car chase in Arizona.
To answer the unasked question up front, no, we are not going to link to the video, and no, we are definitely not going to embed it. But for those of you who really want to see it, you can Google it if you really want to satisfy your morbid curiosity (which, on the dark anonymous corners of the Internet, is probably 90 percent of you).
Car chases were already ethically dubious in journalism because they provide absolutely no service to the news-consuming public and may actually encourage people to go on car chases, sort of like reporting on suicides has been shown to increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals.
But today Fox News opened a new chapter in the debate by airing a car chase that ended in an apparent suicide. Oddly enough, Fox News is (for once) a journalistic savior compared to folks over at Buzzfeed, who clipped the video and published it online.
Here is Shep Smith’s apology:
Not that we have room to talk about online news sources publishing almost anything to drive traffic, but Buzzfeed’s traffic-baiting here was shameless. Fox News aired the car chase on a ten-second tape delay and inadvertently broadcast a suicide.
Buzzfeed, on the other hand, saw the whole thing play out and said, “Wow, all of America should see this man (apparently) end his life. It just might go viral!”
Here is how the Columbia Journalism Review put it on Twitter:
— Columbia Jrn Review (@CJR) September 28, 2012
This dude from the Internet had a good point, too:
— Brad J Shannon (@bradjshannon) September 28, 2012
We’d love to hear your thoughts, J-Schoolers. Who made the bigger mistake? How can we make sure nothing like this ever happens again?