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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
US media focuses on victims
Oklahoma bombing memorial
ABC and CBS sent their anchors to Oklahoma
By Peter Greste in Oklahoma City

Timothy McVeigh's execution was a big event for the US media, who provided almost non-stop coverage throughout the hours either side of the moment of death.


Yes, today we should think more of good things than of bad. Our thoughts should linger more on McVeigh's victims than McVeigh; on their lives rather than his death

The Tribune-Star of Terre Haute
But rather than focusing on the fate of the man who detonated the massive bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995, most chose to turn their attention to the 168 people who died in the explosion, and the survivors and relatives they left behind.

The execution took place in Terre Haute in Indiana at 0700 local time - right in the middle of the national television networks' fiercely competitive breakfast television programmes.

ABC's Good Morning America and its key rival, Today on CBS both sent their main news anchors to Oklahoma City rather than the execution site, to keep focused on the survivors and relatives.

For a medium that demands images, the moment of death behind closed doors at the Federal Prison in Terre Haute was difficult period to cover.

New York Post headline
The headline in the New York Post
ABC's lead anchorman Charlie Gibson candidly admitted: "We struggled to find appropriate words to use at this moment, so we decided to that it would be better to use none at all."

The network then scrolled through the names and photographs of each of those who died, over images of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and of the people contemplating the event there.

CBS and Fox News used similar strategies, before turning to the witness testimonies and interviews with victims' relatives.

On the internet, on radio, and in special editions of the local newspapers, the story obliterated other headlines, with The Tribune-Star of Terre Haute issuing an eight-page special edition on Monday morning. The headline: "McVeigh Executed."

"Yes, today we should think more of good things than of bad," said a Tribune-Star editorial.

"Our thoughts should linger more on McVeigh's victims than McVeigh; on their lives rather than his death. But that's not an easy thing to do. Maybe it will be easier tomorrow."


As a society, we must value life more than he valued the lives he destroyed. That is a faith that Timothy McVeigh was unable to reach but which still lies within our power

New York Times
On the internet, web pages devoted almost as much space to the execution, providing chat rooms and live coverage of the event.

They also posted the transcript of the poem "Invictus" which McVeigh issued as his final statement.

Most of those who did comment on the execution itself were united in welcoming the end of what one witness described as an "evil life".

They devoted much time and space to the witnesses who declared that although watching McVeigh draw his last breath was not in itself an end of the affair, they could be satisfied in the knowledge that he had gone before his ultimate judge - God.

Many said McVeigh seemed to stare straight at them from more than 990km (620 miles) away by gazing directly into the overhead TV camera in the death chamber with a cold, hard - and defiant - look.

"I think I did see the face of evil today," said Kathy Wilburn, whose grandsons Chase Smith, three, and Colton, two, died in the bombing. "I'm glad it's gone."


The victims didn't have any choice in their fate. They didn't get a last meal or a last statement... They didn't die painlessly

Washington Post
But the New York Times was one of the dissenting voices, calling for a re-think of capital punishment.

Its editorial writer said: "Some will say that there are at least 168 reasons to execute Timothy McVeigh.

"His death, foregone though it is by now, will redeem none of those lives. As a society, we must value life more than he valued the lives he destroyed.

"That is a faith that Timothy McVeigh was unable to reach but which still lies within our power."

Another writer in The Washington Post was equally critical of the decision to execute the convicted bomber.

"Call it justice if you want, but even the death penalty in this case seems too small a punishment.

"The victims didn't have any choice in their fate. They didn't get a last meal or a last statement. They didn't have time to get their affairs in order or send out any last letters to the media or their supporters. They didn't get to say goodbye. They didn't die painlessly.

"This is justice? Then why doesn't it feel that way?"

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