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Murder Brings Tough Call for News Nets

5/11/2004 4:50 PM Eastern

A Web site with purported ties to al-Qaeda ran gruesome footage Tuesday of hooded captors beheading American hostage Nick Berg, forcing the all-news networks to decide how much of the graphic video should be shown to viewers.

Associated Press Television News supplied Fox News Channel, Cable News Network and MSNBC with video that included the decapitation of Berg, but all three networks ran only images of Berg surrounded by his captors while he was still alive. None of the networks showed images of Berg’s murder.

Fox News vice president of programming Kevin Magee said the network decided to use the video "judiciously."

"You want to convey to the audience the terrible thing that has happened. You don’t want to overuse it, you don’t want to push [the viewer’s] face into it, but they need to know what the news is," Magee said.

During his 5 p.m. newscast Tuesday, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer told viewers, "CNN is not showing the beheading," but Blitzer said other parts of the video might be disturbing.

MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said the network would use the video when anchors are talking about the story. "It won’t be used as b-roll or wallpaper," she said.

September