Friday 5 October 2012

Fox News: Man kills himself live on TV

Last week Fox News accidently showed live footage of a man committing suicide by shooting himself in the head with a gun.

The news channel had been following a car chase, where the police were pursuing a motorist through the US state of Arizona.

The police eventually gave up on the chase, but Fox continued to follow the man until he stopped his car and got out.

At this point, Fox News switched from live coverage to a slight delay of a few seconds, just in case something unexpected happened.

Well something unexpected did happen and the camera didn't cut away in time - meaning viewers witnessed someone killing themselves live on national TV!

TV anchor Shepard Smith apologizes to viewers for not cutting away in time

I can't believe I missed this story, I only found out about it today. After watching the clip above, I decided to watch a clip on Youtube showing the very end of the chase and the motorist killing himself.

It's disturbing to watch as you realise this isn't some action film but real life. It's the reason I didn't want to embed the clip onto my blog.

I've now discovered that Fox News has a reputation for covering high speed car chases, as they provide short term ratings increases for the network as viewers want to see how drama ends.

This got me thinking. This incident seems to blur the lines between what's news and what's entertainment. Fox had followed the chase for most of the morning and early afternoon.

Was it newsworthy to dedicate hours of live coverage to this or was it just pure entertainment for viewers?

News can and sometimes should be entertaining. Clearly there are some news stories that have greater appeal to audiences than others, I'm just not sure that hours of continuous live coverage of a car chase is news.

It reminds of the increasingly common question of whether something reported is in the 'public interest' or is it 'of interest to the public'.

The coverage from Fox feels more like the latter it was entertainment, like a form of reality tv, but dressed up as news. The only problem is that Fox and its viewers got way more than they bargained for.

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