Broadcasting a shooting: a new era of promotion rolls in

Just a few years ago, there were content creators — and there were consumers of that content. We were all the consumers, absorbing only what broadcast media wanted us to see.

But much of that has changed. While broadcast media vowed to never show a live act of violence on broadcast television, those rules no longer apply. We’ve all become publishers and our own content creators, having the ability to showcase our thoughts and feelings to the world. Yet, with the noise vs. signal ratio, the content needs to be really good, really different, or, as we hate to say it, really brutal, bloody, or bad.

Why is it that broadcast media thrives on reporting on violence, deaths, and murder? Why are the Facebook trending stories usually about children who have been abducted, brutally beaten, or snatched up by alligators? Remember Faces of Death? This time, it’s real.

Simply stated, people are attracted to that which sells covers. (An interesting side point: things people aren’t so interested in don’t sell nearly as well.)

Perhaps that’s why Facebook is banking on live video for being a core component of its strategy. In five years, a Facebook spokesperson said, your news feed will likely be all video.

Thus, Facebook Live has been empowering content creators to broadcast that which perhaps wasn’t intended–or the aftermath of which was never supposed to make itself seen. The most notable story was the broadcast of the death of Philando Castile of Minnesota, shot by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. The vehicle Castile was in was pulled over, and when confronted by the police, he informed them that he was licensed to carry a firearm that he had on his person. When reaching to access his license and registration, he was shot in the arm “four or five times.” The aftermath of a writhing Castile, a subsequent arrest of Reynolds, and their little four year old daughter trying to placate her mother, was seen by nearly 6 million people. Castile died during the video broadcast.

Castile’s story sets a foundation of what’s to come in this space, but already, he is not alone. The New York Times reports the story of Antonio Perkins of Chicago who was simply talking to his friends live on Facebook when he was shot and killed. Three men in Virginia were live broadcasting themselves having fun when someone opened fire on the vehicle and all three were wounded.

Indeed, we’ve entered a new era of the broadcast, perhaps with unintended consequences (or quite possibly the opposite: with consequences that Facebook was aiming for all along. After all, exclusive content to real life original violence drives visits and traffic–think about how many people rubberneck after a car accident. No pun intended–that’s traffic too! By nature, we’re a curious bunch). Now the question remains: do we have a responsibility to break the news in this way to drive audiences? Could our videos override the legal process? They certainly are shining a light into what many would consider unprovoked police brutality.

Let’s position the question in this way: when you’re interacting with the police, after you grab your bearings, what would you do? Would you pull out your camera to expose flaws in law enforcement or would you do what you’re told by the individual wearing the badge? When you’re sure you’re innocent, it’s probably a way to illustrate holes in a process that may need an overhaul.

Now let’s dive back into another topic: when do humans stop being humans? Did you see the videos after the truck plowed into a crowd of people during Bastille Day? People were more eager to film the carnage than to help the victims. There is something to be said about humans who forget about saving others, instead looking to win fame and fortune from a video that will get eyeballs and that they can possibly sell to the media. But the platforms empower it. Today, we are all the media.

And what’s in it for Facebook? Do you consider it to be the site that breaks the media for you? With videos like this, it certainly is. Yet one only wonders if their goals are altruistic. Are they in it for justice or do they want to get paid? The traffic surges for them are wild.

Putting that into perspective for a moment, the media does the same thing. Remember, if they can be the first publication to break the news about other acts of gore or brutality, they’re getting all those pageviews too. Facebook is just another cog in the media machine. We can’t blame them.

But should it stop? Germany recently broadcast on CNBC that they didn’t want to have developing events broadcast live. Sensitivity to the victims, perhaps? (Does anyone have any decency left?)

Let’s hear it from you. If faced with the opportunity to break the news, would you stop and broadcast it live for the world to see, or would you stop to help the needy? Take the poll below and let us know.


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