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Opinion Blood-curdling cellphone video inside Fla. school pops up on TV news

People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on Wednesday in Parkland, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Chuck Todd’s “MTP Daily” on MSNBC was conceived to highlight the recurring national drama of Washington politics. The running storyline, however, is always apt to be interrupted by the recurring national trauma of gun violence. Such is the reality of covering a country that has seen eight school shootings in 2018 alone.*

So when Todd took the chair on his set on Wednesday afternoon, he was forced to deliver the news about that 18th school shooting. The shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., just before the school day ended. As of this writing, police report that 17 people have died in the shooting.

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Video that Todd introduced at the top of the 5 p.m. hour drives at the horror inside the building. Before showing a cellphone clip, Todd warned his audience that it “may be a bit disturbing for some viewers.” That was an understatement. The video, which has circulated on the Internet, depicts students in a state of panic as shots are fired. The piercing volume of the gunshots, alongside the screams and desperation of the people, drive at the horror of the situation.

Asked whether MSNBC would continue showing the video, a network source said it was difficult to say because the story is still developing. If it does, MSNBC will continue issuing the warnings to viewers.

All of the nightly broadcast news programs — ABC News’s “World News Tonight,” “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” — made use of the video. “We think it is important to not conceal the horror of tragic events as we report on them, although we have been careful to add a warning about the graphic nature of the video so that viewers can watch it at their own discretion,” said a CBS News spokesperson. On “CBS Evening News,” anchor Jeff Glor introduced the footage with these words: “We do caution you: Some of the video you’re about to see is graphic.”

Also: As the story develops, CBS News won’t air the video in teases and will mute the sound after 10 seconds.

The Erik Wemple Blog has inquired as to whether other networks have used the cellphone video. CNN responded late Wednesday afternoon that it had not aired it. We’ll update as we receive information about usage elsewhere.

*Correction: This post originally reported 18 school shootings in 2018, based on a figure that has come under forceful criticism. As reported here, there have been eight school shootings in 2018 that have resulted in death or injury.