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A tough news call gets a going-over

Brian Williams and his NBC Nightly News are taking a hammering on the network's own blog for airing portions of what the anchor called a "multimedia manifesto" from Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui.

He apparently mailed the package to NBC during the two hours between separate killing sprees on the university's campus. It arrived at the network around 11 a.m. Wednesday, NBC News president Steve Capus said on MSNBC. Nightly News then aired edited portions of multiple videos and still pictures. Reaction from viewers came fast and furious.

"As the parent of a Virginia Tech student, your video from the murderer's manifesto on tonight's news was terribly disturbing to me," said one of the first emails to "The Daily Nightly" blog. "Even to address this email to you from your website, I have to look down the barrel of his gun once again.

"I have called and complained to my local NBC affiliate (In Greenville, SC), and I ask you as I asked them for NBC to not air any more of Cho's material. Tempted by your exclusive material, you have sunk to a new low for network journalism, and encouraged other would-be murderers to use a new formula to have their crimes glorified."

Williams himself posted a "Late Development" on the blog in which he confirmed receiving Cho's "manifesto."

NBC "immediately handed it over to Federal law enforcement authorities," he said. "We are still going over our own copy -- it's a lot of material -- we are talking with law enforcement, our own standards people -- and Pete Williams, our Justice Correspondent, will join me live on the broadcast to go through the material."

This didn't sit well with hardly anyone who emailed NBC.

"Oh my God, your newscast has made me so enraged," said an emailer from Evansville, Indiana. "I cannot even see straight. You are glamorizing this man and his rambling by giving him a national stage for his words? What the hell are you thinking? You only are adding fuel to the fire by promoting this man and for others to do the same knowing they will receive media time for the headlines they create."

Williams, in a later appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, described Cho as "this crazed, narcissistic, mass murderer."

"This was a sick business, I admit tonight, going on the air with this stuff," Williams said.

It's too late to undo it now, and there are persuasive arguments for airing the footage, too. We starkly see Cho for what he was -- a deeply disturbed young man who snapped completely. Is it lionizing him to show this to the world? Should we stop showing all film of Hitler, too, because some sick idiots out there might choose to reinvent him in their twisted minds as a hero?

Sadly, in today's world, maniacs have instant and easy access to myriad forms of media. And just what can we do about it anymore? NBC for one can stop incessantly repeating its Cho footage. And other media outlets should quickly rein themselves in, too.

Putting a Cho "slide show" on its Web site, as NBC continued to do late Wednesday night, speaks directly to viewers' justifiable anger about glorifying a despicable act. For that and many other reasons, you'll never see his picture on this Web site. It's the least one person can do.