Lies, Damned Lies, and Editors

“Shocking footage from Madison, WI. They’re not only busing in people from out of state; they are also busing in palm trees.”

Stephen Colbert

Earlier this week, Fox News came under fire after airing edited footage of union protests in Sacramento while talking about protests in Madison, WI on The O’Reilly Factor. (Sidenote: Coincidentally, O’Reilly and Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin have a conversation about the crowds distrust in Fox News just prior to the deceptive footage used.) While mistakes can be made in television, I thought I would give a little insight into just what it takes to make such a mistake.

First, I would like to say that this is by no means the first time Fox has made a critical editing error which some would argue favors their agenda. Take, for instance, the controversy caused just a few weeks prior when Fox News used Ron Paul’s 2010 CPAC straw poll win (which received a thunderous disapproval) rather than his 2011 victory. In November of 2009, Fox News was caught using footage from a 9/12 rally to support his numbers for an entirely different Tea Party rally.While mistakes are common in television production, these mistakes always compliment Fox News rather than impede them in any way.

Secondly, although I have not worked in any capacity with live television coverage, I do work in the field of television production. I can say from my experience that mistakes do happen quite often, some more noticeable than others. That being said, there are guidelines in place to ensure that most errors of this nature are prevented.

Footage is collected from archives by editors, cut up into clips to be used as pundits talk, and then brought up by a director with the producer of the show looking over the whole picture. There are several individuals who see this footage both before and during the broadcast, hence the chances of such mishaps occurring is very slim.

O’Reilly’s mistake seems more plausible than others by virtue of the fact that the footage was used earlier in his program. What is inexcusable, however, is Hannity’s production blunder. The footage shown on the reel Hannity uses had to be edited thoroughly together into one clip before being put into any video playback playback equipment. It is very likely in this case someone knew what they were doing or that this “error” was either caught and not corrected or deliberately done to mislead. If this is true, the blunders following this 2009 fiasco lose some of their credibility as “honest mistakes”.

Thirdly, even if one does subscribe to the notion that all of these were in fact mistakes, the consequence of such error is pretty significant. The only thing one can deduce from such error is lack of professionalism and attention to detail. If Fox News hastily assembles its footage for broadcast, what does this say about their thoroughness in reporting and investigative journalism?

While accidents do happen, it seems very suspicious that such mishaps occur on Fox News in such an advantageous way. The protesters in Wisconsin, on the other hand, can only wish for palm trees and sunny skies on the cold winter nights at the capital.

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