Should the video of Walter Scott’s murder have been posted online?

Posted by Emily VanSchmus

Embed from Getty Images

On Tuesday, April 7, Walter Scott was pulled over in North Charleston, South Carolina for a broken tail light. Half an hour later, he was dead.

Scott was shot eight times by North Charleston Michael T. Slager and remained facedown on the ground without any medical attention for several minutes before he was pronounced dead. The video of his death was posted online by The New York Times later that evening.

Slager was charged with murder that evening, although he claimed Scott had stolen his taser and he feared for his life. The video shows the officer picking up what could be a taser from a few yards away and placing it near Scott’s body.

The question at hand is whether the video should have been posted on the internet. On one hand, it shows a human losing their life, which can be insensitive to family and friends as well as hard to watch. On the other hand, there was so confusion around the recent Ferguson shooting because no one actually knew what happened. A video like this could stop the public from speculating and let them see what actually happened.

I stumbled across the article late Tuesday night after it popped up on my ‘suggested news’ section on Facebook. I wanted to read the article, so I opened the page on the Times website. I saw a video at the top of the page, and it had been a long day, so I figured I could just watch the newscast about the event rather than reading a long article.

Immediately, my screen showed a young black man running from a police officer as the officer shot him several times. I was shocked – I had not planned to watch a man die right in front of me and didn’t feel that I was well informed about what the video would actually show. I wondered if the Times would remove the video or change the way it was presented, but as of 5:00 Wednesday evening they had not.

Poynter published an article Wednesday morning stating that posting the video was justified. It was also released that the bystander who filmed the incident gave the video footage to Scott’s family, who gave it to their lawyer, who then gave it to the Times.

Read more about Poynter’s decision:

Would you have posted this video online?

If so, would you have placed the story lower on the page, left out the section where Scott is shot, included a warning message for viewers or done anything else differently?


4 responses to “Should the video of Walter Scott’s murder have been posted online?

  1. Stephanie Gaub

    Given this specific situation, I agree with the decision to run the video. When I first watched the video this afternoon, I viewed it through my CNN news app, and the first thing that showed up on the screen when I hit ‘play’ was a gray background with a warning saying, “The following report contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.” The heading of the video also says “Video: Cop shoots man as he’s running away”. For me, those two things are fairly explicit about what you’re about to see. Also, the fact that the family passed the video on strengthens my opinion that it was ok to run this video. However, the biggest reason that I agree with this decision is because of the nightmare that Ferguson was. No one knew what really happened in that case. Here is a case that could have easily escalated (maybe not to the point of Ferguson, but who knows) and they have the scene on video. Granted, we still don’t have the entire story, but I think that the public has the right to know when police aren’t doing their jobs correctly.

    • I agree, Stephanie. Given the specific situation, I’m glad they ran the video. These are the types of things that the public needs to see in order to get some confirmation of the terrible things obstructing our justice system. I agree with you again that the family’s decision to show the video was a huge help (and conscience cleanser) when it came to sharing it. Even though this was a tragic event that definitely could have been avoided, I’m glad that the media is showing the story. Videos are point blank: that’s what happened. And if the public wants to know what happened, they have access to it. And if they don’t want to know what happened, they don’t have to watch the video. But in that case, they can’t be making assumptions or claiming “truths” based on baises.

    • emily.vanschmus

      I definitely agree that the warning messages were a good idea. I watched the video almost immediately after it was posted and didn’t get a message other than ‘Walter Scott was murdered by a police officer’. I think they have since changed it, which I’m happy about – if I had seen messages like that I might not have watched the video.

  2. Pingback: North Charleston police to wear body cameras via mayoral executive order | Media Editing

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