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LIVE! From Death Row!

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Elizabeth Starr

on 2 December 2015

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Transcript of LIVE! From Death Row!

Analysis - SPJ Code of Ethics
Do we televise the execution at risk of facing criticism for televising gruesome images? Do we not televise the execution at the risk of losing our credibility as a news source?
Debate heats up between newscasters
Channel 7 announces airing decision
Minimizing harm: not televising the execution to protect viewers from potentially gruesome images.
Seeking truth and reporting it: televising the execution so we don’t lose the viewers or the story or our credibility.
- The execution does not need to be broadcast to the general public

- The outcome of the event is already set and known by the public - the process need not be visually presented

- Children could see the execution take place - although televising an execution is not illegal and observing executions in different forms used to be common practice, the general attitude towards executions nowadays has become less accepting of seeing others die as punishment

Final Case Study Project
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Group 2
Introduction / situation definition
Channel 7 to televise execution?
Response to criticism
Station managers release statement
• Wilbert Lacey killed three Manderville families and dismembered them, then refrigerated them

• Lacey was sentenced to death by electric chair and has been on death row for 10 years

• Robert Eaton, warden at Hapeville State Prison and supporter of the death penalty, invites local media to cover and televise Lacey's execution

• Eaton's conditions: only one pool camera would be allowed and all subjects' faces would be blurred

• Channel 7 and Channel 10 are only news outlets in Manderville

• Channel 10 decides not to televise the execution

• Channel 7 journalists are in conflict as to whether or not they should televise Lacey's execution

- Execution by the electric chair is a gruesome and outdated process of the death penalty
- The material is not television appropriate - seeing a live execution is inhumane and does not fall within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- The material broadcasted would be obscene and would raise be ethically and morally in question by many viewers
- No other execution has been broadcasted
- Although Lacey has been convicted of murder, his execution is not held as public knowledge as far as the actual process is concerned
Seeing a person killed has an everlasting effect on a person’s mind and this does not reflect the wishes and values of Channel 7 News

LIVE! From Death Row!
Children's innocence at stake?
Analysis continued
• Stakeholders:
- Lacey, his family and friends
- Murder victims’ families and friends
- Eaton
- Channels 7 and 10
- Viewers of Channels 7 and 10
- Sensitive sections of the public such as children
- Both death penalty advocates and protesters

• External factors:
- There is no Station 7 policy concerning executions
- Executions have never been televised in Manderville before
- No legal constraints, as executions require witnesses in the first place
- Graphic content warnings would be aired before the footage.
- Most people in Manderville support the death penalty
- Small group of Manderville protests death penalty
- Channel 10, the main competitor of Channel 7, did not opt to televise the execution

• Competing principles
- The duty of a news outlet to fully cover the news
- The duty to report in a decent, humane manner
- The desire of some people to witness the execution
- The station's duty to protect members of the public who might be disturbed by the footage, like young children and Wilbert Lacey’s family and friends

No word from 7, execution tomorrow
Full transcript