It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

A side step: Judging the ethics of the Olympics

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Because of myself being a major Winter Olympics junkie (if you haven’t noticed by my tweeting the last few days), I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate the Games into this blog. And instead of advice or personal viewpoints, I’ve decided to pose an ethics question to those who visit.

By now, everyone’s heard about the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and the untimely death he faced Friday as he lost control of his sled and flew off the track in Whistler, British Columbia. Tons of news reports are out there, reporting on the aftermath.

Now, herein lies the question: Youtube has seemingly pulled the video of Kumaritashvili crashing, citing that it is copyrighted by the International Olympic Committee (although the Associated Press video is still there). But a lot of people are crying out that the video is insensitive and not appropriate for viewership. I’m providing the clip because I want people to judge for themselves, but please be warned, it IS graphic:

And it isn’t just Youtube that’s pulling the clip. NBC has reportedly ordered that the clip no longer be played because of its nature. Only executive Steve Capus has the authority to allow the clip to be played, and it doesn’t sound like he’ll do that anytime soon.

The question is: Should this video be pulled from the Internet because of its nature? And is it journalistically ethical to play and post the video?

My two cents: I don’t think there’s anything illegal about the clip, as it is what happened. Nowadays, with 24-hour news channels, there is more of a tendency to replay clips of disasters over and over again (see: 9/11), something many viewers feel is gratuitous and unnecessary. Personally, it probably does not need to be played as often now, as the timeliness of the story is fading. As it was, I had a hard time watching the luge events this weekend knowing that that incident had happened. As the his father said, the track shouldn’t cause the death of an athlete.

If, however, the IOC investigates and something is determined, it may become ok to air it again to allow the public to scrutinize the ruling (as long as it isn’t played over and over again, see example above). But because it is news and was in a public place, there’s nothing illegal (at least in the United States) about posting and airing this clip. It’s just become tasteless.

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Written by David Veselenak

February 16, 2010 at 4:13 am

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