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Deciding how to handle a traumatic event on live television is one of the most difficult and sensitive decisions in all of broadcast production. There is no handbook on how to handle the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event on live television.
On Sunday, CBS did a masterful job navigating the through the aftermath of Kevin Ware’s horrific leg injury during the first half of the Midwest regional final between No. 1-seed Louisville and No. 2-seed Duke. It takes a tremendous amount of poise and judgment to handle a delicate situation like this, and ultimately, the network did the right thing.
Seth Davis touches on it in the video above, but a few things need to be reemphasized.
The network did show two immediate replays of the injury, but only for the sake of getting a grasp of what actually happened. The injury took place towards the end of a play, and occurred in the upper-third portion of the screen. Once the production crew realized the severity of the injury, no further replays were used. The production crew probably had better angles on the injury, but choosing to refrain from using them was the correct move. It is up to the production crew to serve as a filter for the public, and they properly filtered out as much as possible without jeopardizing their journalistic integrity. With the advancements in internet technology, those interested in viewing the injury are able to do so on the internet, where it is up to the user to decide whether or not they want to view the video.
The networks’ decision to stay with the action in lieu of cutting to a commercial break was also the right thing to do. While the event was traumatic and graphic in nature, CBS maintained journalistic integrity by remaining on camera while allowing the aftermath to unfold. CBS is a broadcast news company, and they stayed with the game in order for the event to play out. Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz showed great poise and respect during the broadcast, and allowed the visuals to tell the story.
The reactions of the Louisville and Duke players is what made the immediate aftermath seem so raw, so uncut. We’ve seen horrific injuries before, but never have the reactions of the players and opponents been so real, so uncontrollable. Several Louisville players began vomiting on the bench. The faces of Chane Behanen and Russ Smith were covered in tears. The image of Rick Pitino wiping the tears off his face trying to regain composure before entering the huddle is one of the most raw and real images we have seen all season.
What took place on Sunday is one of the most gruesome and traumatic sports injuries we’ve seen in a long time. The network allowed the events to take place without compromising the integrity of the players or the game, yet controlled the image as to not disturb the viewing audience.
You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter @TroyMachir