At about ten past six last night I switched off my TV in disgust. Then I sent a text message to Mark Jennings, TV3's head of news and current affairs, telling him I wouldn't be watching 3 News again anytime soon. I doubt that he'll lose any sleep over that, but at least I felt marginally better for having registered a protest.
What I'd just seen on 3 News made me feel literally sick to the stomach. The network reported that Kaikohe police had arrested a 15-year-old girl for an assault that was captured on video and put online.
Journalist Karen Rutherford's report on the incident included the video footage. It was hard to watch, as only real-life violence can be - the more so when the perpetrator is a teenage girl.
The assault was shocking in its savagery and intensity. The victim, a girl of similar age, was reportedly ambushed as she got off a bus. She attempted to defend herself but was overwhelmed by the sheer fury of the attack, which involved knees to the face and head as well as a hail of punches. The assailant looked as if she had done this sort of thing before.
That a 15-year-old girl should be capable of such sustained and clearly premeditated violence was only one of several reasons to be shocked. Another was that someone, probably an associate of the attacker, captured it on video and put it online for others to enjoy. A third was that bystanders stood around and did nothing.
But this simply tells us there are feral people out there who indulge in behaviour (presumably learned from, if not encouraged by, their elders) that most of us find reprehensible. We knew that anyway.
What was inexcusable was that 3 News magnified and compounded the outrage by screening the footage - and not just briefly, which would have been all that was necessary to convey what had happened, but at length. And repeatedly.
I replayed the item this morning. Rutherford's item ran for more than two minutes, during which there were six video segments - that's right, six - showing the attack. The longest ran for about 13 seconds and cumulatively the footage ran for nearly a minute.
It was stomach-churning, and what made it all the more repulsive was that the incident was reported with the hypocritical tone of moral disapproval at which television journalists excel.
We were told that the Kaikohe police were disgusted that someone had filmed the assault, and an academic interviewed by Rutherford suggested that the person who did the filming was no better than the perpetrator of the attack.
Amen to that. But where does that leave 3 News, which obviously liked the footage so much that it showed parts of the attack two or three times? A few seconds would have been sufficient to show us how ugly it was, but the footage was gratuitously replayed over and over, even as Rutherford was telling viewers in tut-tutting tones how despicable it was.
If the person who shot and uploaded the footage was morally complicit in the offence, then 3 News is too - in fact far more so, because 3 News took what would previously have been seen by only a very limited online audience and replayed it, at length, on national television.
I would feel complicit too if I continued to watch a news bulletin that demonstrated such an abysmal lack of ethical judgment, so I won't.