Univision’s weekly news show Crónicas de Sábado recently aired a special re-enactment of the 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting complete with actors and special effects. They called it Baño de Sangre. Translated, it means Blood Bath.
The producers interviewed the survivors shortly after the massacre which killed 49, many of whom were still in shock and emotionally traumatized. Some had no memory of the interviews while others claim they thought they were speaking with news reporters.
Just months later, Univision began promoting the episode that included actors and special effects. So it’s no surprise that the victims along with Orlando’s LGBTQ community condemned the show and asked Univision to re-think its broadcast.
Univision responded by removing the commercials promoting the show and releasing a statement that the show would be “deeply respectful of the many people whose lives were impacted by this tragedy.” Then they aired the show as planned.
In this age when nearly everyone has a Smart Phone and generations are developing a narcissistic need to share their images with the world, television news has unlimited access to real-time video. Networks air footage of a police stand-off at a college campus while it’s still going on thanks to bystanders uploading images at alarming speeds.
Consequently, we have clearer – and yet more unclear – information about the events in our world. They’re blurry, full of panic and horror, offering more shock and awe than actual facts. But they get ratings.
And true crime partial re-enactments have been a popular television tool for decades. So is it any surprise that these producers went one step further with added blood and special effects? After all, realism is necessary to get the complete picture.
The question is: Do we need this picture?
Shortly after a woman was killed on Highway 61 this past January, dashcam footage of the three-car accident was aired during the TBT News Hour. Was this appropriate? Or necessary?
With the growing concern over the safety of that stretch of road, there was a strong argument that the video would have educational value to the public. The images were slightly blurry and at a distance so no one’s privacy was invaded. No one’s personal loss exploited. However, it did clarify what happened better than the post-accident photos.
Can Univision say the same? Given the preponderance of violence in entertainment, most adults can imagine what it was like with a gunman shooting inside the crowded Pulse nightclub.
And what is the educational value? Is this a how-to video for the next generation of crazed killers?
Every day, television news must decide what kind of visuals to add to their stories. It can be a fine line between information and intrusion. Education and glorification.
Real news focuses on the former. Fake news takes advantage of the latter.
Obviously, the survivors and the victims’ families didn’t have to watch Blood Bath’s violent re-enactment. Most probably didn’t. But now it’s out there. And it should have been enough for everyone the first time.