Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBC has an attack of good taste

This makes for interesting reading indeed. Brian Williams (right) is Anchor and Managing Editor with NBC News, the network that received the package of text, video and photos from the Virginia Tech killer. In his blog, Williams describes how he and his colleagues wrestled with how to present the shocking material in the package. As it turns out, they used precious little of it, and for all the right reasons.

"A critical piece of information in a huge national news story was dropped on our doorstep," Williams writes. "While I love my work, our task yesterday was extremely unpleasant. Yesterday was an awful day. There was no joy in this for any of us. To the contrary: opening each computer video snippet for the first time was a sickening and harrowing experience - and it's good to know that the worst of them - all now in the hands of investigators - will never see the light of day. As I said on the air last evening: we are aware that this puts words in the mouth of a murderer."

Yes, they did air some of the tape (I would prefer none at all). But Williams' comments are a very good start. Coming from a big American network, it is cause for optimism, in a country where the news business is so extremely competitive and, yes, sensational. One can't help but wonder what would have happened if CNN or Fox News had received the package...

Thanks to Darrell Smith for the link.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for your blog, I enjoy your posts!

I would like to first compliment you on your post and commentary on the media’s reluctance to report threads that may glorify and extend the story towards the perpetrator. I agree with the commentary and I tip my hat to Mr. Tony Burman at CBC in his attempts to champion second thought on this issue.

I would however like to share a transcript from CNN’s “Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer, which refutes Mr. Tony Burman's postscript on copy cat killing. I am certainly in no position to comment on the trends and inclinations for copy cat killing, but the comments from the psychiatrist (Dr. Helen Morrison, Forensic Psychiatrist) resonated with me.

Basically her observation is that the images and visuals (Columbine) of mass murder do not influence a “copy cat’ response. This psychiatrist contends that these killers are classified as a “classic paranoid psychotic individual”………and therefore, not an individual who responds to these types of incidents.

I would be interested to see what CBC's thoughts are on this?

Best regards


Did Mental Health System Fail Virginia Tech Gunman?
Aired April 19, 2007 - 19:00 ET
BLITZER: We're joined from New York by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Helen Morrison. Dr. Morrison, thanks very much for coming in. Have you been able to make any sense of what happened there from a psychiatric point of view?

DR. HELEN MORRISON, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: In the context of doing a psychological autopsy, because we've not seen him, yes, you can make a lot of sense out of him. He is a very classic paranoid psychotic individual, someone who is highly suspicious and out of contact with reality, who was unable to control the building rage that he had inside of him for either real or his own perceived slights, and who was clearly and able to be methodical, was able to plan over a long period of time, and was able to continue the executions of the entire world that he felt was against him.

BLITZER: The Associated Press has a story saying -- and quoting -- several of his former classmates, Dr. Morrison, is saying "He had been bullied by fellow students at school who mocked his shyness and the strange way that he talked."

Can bullying and mocking create a monster like this?

MORRISON: No, it cannot. And I think that's a very important point of your part.

Bullying does not make someone paranoid and psychotic. We don't know what does, but it's a process. It's not something that happens overnight.

It's not something that you can point to and say, oh, this is what did it. But as you know, if you are looking at how someone begins to disintegrate, just like a building disintegrates, it's one piece at a time, until finally you have an implosion, which is what happened at VT.

BLITZER: Some are suggesting he was, in fact, a copycat, copying Columbine, or other events that he built up in his own mind.

Do you see evidence of that?

MORRISON: No. There are not a copycat in any of the paranoid psychotics. It is the only way that they know to end the misery and the absolute sense of lack of safety that they think they have because the world is against them, the world is responsible for everything that they have done. And so they take it on the world that they know. But it is not a copycat.

BLITZER: When we saw those statements that he made, the video, he seemed so methodical.

Is this -- is this what people like this are, what they do?

MORRISON: It's one of the hallmarks of someone who is a paranoid psychotic, which is why most often they are not diagnosed correctly. They are so together, they are so organized, they are so capable of justifying their actions, of explaining what's happening, that even the most experienced mental health professionals often miss the diagnosis.

BLITZER: One final question, Dr. Morrison, before I let you go. When he speaks about the "you," "you" made me do this, "you," he doesn't define who "you" is. What is he referring to?

MORRISON: "You" is what we call a paranoid pseudo community. It includes everyone and everything that he has ever seen as making some type of reference against him which is a negative reference.

It doesn't even have to be bullying. It's like this teacher who tried to help him. She thought she was helping him. He saw that as another insult.

BLITZER: Dr. Helen Morrison, a forensic psychiatrist.

Thank you for your insight.

MORRISON: Thank you.

Tina Chaulk said...

And other psychiatrists appear to disagree with Dr. Morrison. It seems that, as with all issues, anyone can find "experts" who will say things to support both sides.

I'll take Elliot Leyton's word first, knowing his international reputation (and having taken his class before, where he discussed these issues).

Sheri said...


Was referred to your blog because of another blog I made a comment on today. I am really pleased to see such good quality from a local source...congrats.

As to the comments by this psychiatrist(Morrison), I would suggest that it would be very easy to find quantities of other professionals who would disagree with her point of view.

The constant repeating of the same sound bits, video clips, music and tone of speech that accompanies them can so affect our moods, even as individuals who consider ourselves rationale and sane. I harken back to the time of 9/11 when everyone seemed to walk around in a fog. Personally, it got to the point that I simply had to turn off the T.V. and the psychological I.V. that the American news had connected to us all. I am beginning to feel somewhat the same way with this event. What effect, therefore, could it have on someone who is seemingly unbalanced??


Philip Lee said...

I agree that the CBC got it right. Great coverage Geoff. More commentary, and perhaps a different take, on these issues at The Mysterious East.


Geoff Meeker said...

Tony and Sheri: I do not permit anonymous posts on the blog, unless they are from working journalists. Yours are both pretty innocuous so I shall leave them up for a day or two, but I remove the anonymous "drive-by sneer" immediately. People who are willing to insult others should have the nerve to sign their names to it.