June 28, 2012 |

In Our Opinion: Deciphering fact from fiction

Deciphering truth from fiction in today's world is becoming increasingly difficult. Technology has made it easier to create videos, share information and inform the public, but it can come at a cost.

Although it's hardly breaking new ground, selective editing has made some headlines in the past few months. Unfortunately, it's a persisting problem with today's media style.

The most recent event to make headlines was a MSNBC clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, edited in a way to make him appear out of touch with the public. Others that stand out include NBC editing audio from George Zimmerman's 911 call and Fox News playing clips of President Obama discussing immigration policy enforcement, which were also out of context.

While crafting a story in the media, much of an interview is left on the cutting room floor. It's part of the job to sort through hours of notes, tape, video or audio recordings for that 600-word article, 30-second exposé or feature on the radio. Cutting and condensing that information, however, can lead to the reporter creating an interview's context, rather than letting the story speak for itself.

What used to be a full one-minute clip letting someone explain a point, has reduced into a mere five seconds, where an interviewee is lucky to speak a full sentence. The extreme result of incorrectly editing clips down, as seen in editing Zimmerman's 911 call, can create anger in different communities depending on the story.

It begs the question, why even consider doing such a thing? Who wins with that sort of action?

News organizations need to be stalwarts of trust in today's world, yet when something like this happens, it diminishes reputations and hurts lives.

In a large part, we're seeing that many of today's reporters and producers already have their story in mind when interviewing, and pick potential segments that could liven up a story, rather than tell the full tale. While political coverage is a large culprit of this, it's possible that any story can fall victim to selective editing. Unfortunately as readers or viewers of the news, we're left unable to determine fact from fiction.

Ever since the epoch of the 24-hour news cycle and cable TV, networks are in constant search of material to fill time. As a result, newspaper pages and television broadcasts are littered with fluffy stories, not to mention the growing infusion of celebrity-related events.

The bottom line is that we need more news and less entertainment.

Legendary journalists such as Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow transformed the landscape of broadcasting with their approach. Instead of offering the news with a particular slant, Cronkite and Murrow set the tone for presenting a story and having the customer come to their own conclusion. From there, readers and viewers went and did their own research to learn more information.

Unfortunately, with the media becoming more centralized and owned by a handful of companies, “the company line” is being stressed more than ever. This can create attempts to play things safe and attract the widest audience possible, instead of doing something right and having the audience come to them.

With technology changing on a daily basis, and production times decreasing, maintaining accuracy will prove more of a challenge than it has in the past. Regardless of the platform, whether it's newspapers, magazines, broadcasts or radio, the media must now be more factually accurate than it ever has been in its history.

While the future format of news is still uncertain, we could all use a Cronkite or Murrow to put us at ease when we get home at night. And that's the way it should be.

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