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Rosie ruminations and more on the Virginia Tech massacre

After hearing that ABC was selling the idea that Rosie O'Donnell was leaving "The View" because of a contract issue, former Buffalo Sabres Coach Ted Nolan immediately came to mind.
Nolan left the Sabres a decade ago after being named coach of the year because he was insulted by a one-year contract offer. Of course, if the Sabres really wanted to keep him, they would have changed their offer. The same holds true with Rosie and ABC.

O'Donnell supposedly wanted a one-year deal and ABC reportedly wanted three years to lock in her salary in case ratings rose. Yeah, right, and O'Donnell and Donald Trump are best friends.
ABC probably would have benefited more from a one-year deal to protect itself from the potential damage of one of Rosie's outbursts. While O'Donnell brought more viewers to "The View," it's a daytime show that gets a 3 to 4 rating. The extra viewers probably weren't worth all the turmoil she caused ABC with her repeated shoot-from-the-hip statements. If ABC finds the right replacement, the ratings damage won't be severe.

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>Unfortunate truths

After a week to reflect, it is time to once again address NBC News' decision to air small portions of the video that was sent by the Virginia Tech murderer.
Sometimes, a journalist knows that when he writes, says or airs something, all hell is going to break loose from people who don't understand the media's role. I'm sure NBC News and the other networks knew the decision wasn't going to be popular with some viewers.
It knew some angry viewers would feel that the murderer got what he wanted and airing the video was insensitive to the victims' families. It was more surprising that some NBC News staffers didn't want it to air and there was an internal media debate on whether running it was appropriate, when it was clearly news.
I actually found NBC's decision to run the Alec Baldwin cell phone diatribe against his 11-year-old daughter more disturbing. After all, it was a private conversation and was leaked by someone with an agenda. But it was deemed news because everything celebrities do is news.
But I digress. NBC News President Steve Capus, who made the decision to air Seung-Hui Cho's video, gave his best defense Sunday on CNN's media program, "Reliable Sources." Asked by host Howard Kurtz if journalism sometimes involves things that people will find offensive, Capus said: "Sometimes good journalism is bad public relations."
That's a line that should be emphasized in journalism classes across the nation.
The Virginia Tech story was certainly one of those occasions that illustrated the disconnect between some journalists and the public. Later, media critic Jeff Jarvis added that the job of journalism is "to give us the unfortunate truths."
In other words, the public isn't always going to be happy with journalism, nor should it be if journalists are doing their jobs. It has been pointed out that it is ironic that in a world that just about every embarrassing or violent video will get extensive play on YouTube, mainstream news is being asked to be more politically correct than ever. Does anyone really think that if NBC News didn't carry the video, it wouldn't quickly land on the Internet?
By definition, news is often disturbing, whether it be the coverage of horrific events like those in Blacksburg or local murders or tragedies or -- you name it. That doesn't mean the media shouldn't show the faces of criminals or try and understand their motivations. The key issue is taste, which can be subjective.
If you take the position that the video shouldn't have been released because the assassin wanted it to be carried to the extreme, then you might consider not ever mentioning his name, because he wanted infamy. You could take censorship even further by saying that the assassin's race shouldn't be mentioned, because it might threaten his community.
Where would the censorship stop? Of course, withholding his name would have meant some people who had witnessed his bizarre behavior wouldn't have come forward and a clearer picture of the psychopath wouldn't have emerged.
Similarly, some analysts noted the video put a bigger face on evil and unquestionably made more people angry enough to do something about a system that allows a mentally ill man to avoid getting the help he needed. In this case, a little viewer anger isn't a bad thing.
I've made some readers angry on occasion, too, on a much smaller scale. I was characterized as "heartless" after a column in which I wrote that Channel 4 overplayed a crawl during the NCAA title basketball game when an Amber Alert was issued for a little girl who eventually was returned home unharmed.
Some readers suggested that I thought the game was more important than the child's life. (Some wrote that I obviously didn't have children, which surprised my three children).
To the contrary, I wrote the child's life was more important than the game. But I believed that a crawl that restarts every few minutes and a news update by an anchor would be more effective than a continuous crawl.
I think the position is worthy of debate. Of course, I knew that my position was going to spark letters to the editors. But a journalist can't worry about being popular.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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