Rock Hill woman threatens to jump off Church tower – A story on ethics in broadcasting

It’s the second day of my internship. I’m sitting at someone else’s desk, writing for tonight’s newscast script, knowing that the anchors aren’t going to use it. I just needed something constructive to do. Then, one of our anchor’s gets a phone call that there are police officers – with vests- surrounding Rock Hill downtown fountain. I followed our technician, videographer, and anchor out into the parking lot to see a woman at the top of First Presbyterian church bell tower. She was standing in the middle of the opening, looking out onto the empty streets. The roads had been blocked off. It was my second day at my internship and a woman was about to jump off of a building less than a block away.

After the initial shock is gone, the anchor looks over to me and explains that suicide is not a story that they would normally cover. He said that it’s a story that doesn’t benefit the community so they typically leave it out. On paper, this sounds kind of harsh but I think his point is that it draws unnecessary attention to a private and sensitive issue. Or possibly that the outcome of telling the story won’t benefit the community. Some people in the office privately expressed to me that they were uncomfortable when our other anchor set up a camera and started recording. She was hoping to get a moment where police grab her down. She was up there for two hours while I babysat the camera. Which, I didn’t mind doing because I was interested and I had no real work to do. The story ran at 6 p.m. with a clip of the woman’s silhouette scaling back down the tower. She had finally decided on her own to come down after the police gave her space to think – from what I could see.

Other ethical decisions went through my mind as this was happening. I wanted to tweet this situation but it hadn’t been resolved yet and technically, I was working for CN2 who was already working on the story. None of them seemed to be tweeting or texting.

So, I didn’t. I didn’t post a snap either for the same reason. Even though I told my friends and it helped them understand the blocked off roads, I thought it would help other people too. I saw Anna Douglas from the Herald also tweeting and posted a video but the jumper could not be seen from her video. A lesson that ideas are ethics are not universal and maybe they’re not intended to be.

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