Should WUSA Have Aired Footage of Crew Attack?

By Merrill Knox 

After WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson and photographer Danielle Gill were attacked covering a home invasion earlier this week, the CBS affiliate aired reported on the incident. Noting that the woman in the video has not yet been identified — and therefore could have been one of the victims of the home invasion —The Washington Post wonders if the story should have aired at all:

Johnson says he doesn’t know the identity of the woman who attacked him or the circumstances that led her to the townhouse in which D.C. police said four armed men held eight people hostage and assaulted three of them. Neither does his boss, WUSA news director Fred D’Ambrosi.

Which leaves open the question: Was the woman one of the victims? Considering that most media organizations won’t identify survivors of violent crimes, out of concern for their privacy and safety, did TV crews cross a line in recording her and airing the footage?

[…] “If the definition of news is something unusual happening, this was certainly something unusual,” D’Ambrosi said. “Bruce has been a reporter for 35 years, and this has never happened to him. . . . [Showing this] might help people understand what journalists go through. I wish I knew more about the woman who came out, but you have to make the best call under the circumstances.”

But another veteran TV news reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is familiar with WUSA’s journalists, said: “This was a borderline call. I would want to know who the woman is before I aired it. You get driven by the pictures [in TV news]. The best video of the day is Bruce Johnson being attacked. But I don’t know if that’s the right call.”

What do you think? As always, comments section is open.