On Friday afternoon, Fox News infamously aired a car chase that ended very badly. A man who had stolen a vehicle outran police until finally pulling into a field, pulling out a gun and shooting himself in the temple. We know this because FNC fell asleep at the switch and didn’t cut away from the man, so if you were watching Fox on Friday, you saw a snuff film. Anchor Shep Smith later explained that it was operator error and it would never happen again on his watch.
Meanwhile, mid-chase Twitter exploded with details. It was amazing to see how quickly those same people changed their tune when something bad ACTUALLY happened. The thing about car chases is when you watch them, you WANT to see something bad happen. That’s the whole point. There’s an element of danger that keeps you tuned in. Of course, that danger could also mean that, at some point, one of these car chases results in a robber mowing down a kid on a bike or shooting himself in the head. Sure, car chases = TV ratings, so I don’t begrudge Fox News showing them. Just as long as we understand that as we watch, we are responsible for seeing whatever terrible act might happen.
In the aftermath, BuzzFeed and Gawker initially posted unedited versions of the video on their site while HuffPost ran the edited clip. BuzzFeed soon added an edited version and gave viewers a warning and a choice. This led to some pretty nasty back and forth fighting between BuzzFeed and HuffPost. Are reporters from the typically friendly publications ready to bury the hatchet just yet? Friendship statuses at this point are unclear. We wrote HuffPost’s Sam Stein and BuzzFeed‘s head honcho Ben Smith. Everyone is tight-lipped. Smith referred us to his publicist, who passed along a Friday statement: “Making an editorial decision on how to cover a sensitive, tragic news event like this is never an easy one. But it is, indeed, a news event and we are a news organization. We posted both an edited version and the full version and we respect our readers’ judgment.”
Despite all the no commenting or careful commenting, we do our best to piece the whole saga together with this storify…