Deciding what part of the video – and how much – was not an easy decision. It was one that the entire newsroom took seriously and debated vigorously.
After getting the three videos from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, reporter Alex Shabad, assignment editor Amanda Aycock and assistant news director Daniel Brown watched the videos independently.
They watched what was unfolding, listened to what was being said and sometimes went frame-by-frame to get a better understanding of how things escalated.
This particular video was different from other officer-involved shootings we have seen. It involved a hostage – a woman who was pregnant with a gun being held to her head.
Before explaining why we came to the decision to air what we did, we want to explain our standard practice on video involving officer-involved shootings.
In past shootings involving police body or dash cam, we typically freeze the video before the moment of impact. We typically play audio of the gunfire over the frozen video.
WCNC makes it a policy to always link raw, unedited video to our website and mobile app with a clear warning of the graphic content before the video plays. In the wake of the Keith Scott shooting and riots that followed, news management at WCNC feel it is now critical to have a layer of transparency with our viewers and give them the same access to police shooting videos as we have.
Unlike every other police shooting we have aired, we chose to air the shots being fired unedited. After reviewing the videos independently, Shabad, Brown and Aycock gathered other newsroom leaders. News director Matt King, anchors Fred Shropshire and Sarah French, our Defenders unit and other news management came together to weigh in.
We felt the impact of the pregnant woman jumping out of the way was crucial to the story we were telling. We felt that freezing the video wouldn't give viewers insight into the trauma she endured. With this in mind, and the fact that it was nearly impossible to see the suspect actually being shot because of his position, we chose to air the video unedited.
This is not a decision we took lightly and one that we know will have an impact on other officer-involved shootings we are entrusted to air. We want our viewers to trust our editorial process. We hope us pulling the curtain back on how this decision was made will show the layers of thought that were put into this.
If you would like to share your thoughts or tell the WCNC news team how we can further improve as a news organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.