THE NEW YORK TIMES
June 25, 2000
MUST-BLEED TV; The Limits of Reality
To the Editor:
Several years ago I worked as a contract videographer for a segment of ''Trauma: Life in the E.R,'' a show mentioned by Craig Tomashoff in his June 11 article [''When the Reality Is Inside the Body'']. What surprised me more than anything else was how readily accident victims allowed their private pain to be submitted to public scrutiny (often with as many as three videographers jockeying for space in the overcrowded and blood-stained emergency room); we were instructed by the producers to have the patients sign waivers as soon as they were well enough to hold a pen and, with rare exception, they signed.
But don't kid yourself. There are limits to this so-called reality television. The team of videographers, awash in blood and gore, worked under strict orders: under no circumstances were we to film a victim's face at the moment of death (even though it happened every day) and there were to be no shots of bare breasts or genitalia. These rules came not from the hospital but from the producers: they argued that spilled brain matter and horrific knife wounds made for great television, but viewers would just not accept death and private parts.