Most people who consume news coverage on a regular or daily basis do so with the underlying trust that what they’re being told and shown is an accurate depiction of the truth.
What was once a few networks resuming daily news, has erupted into a free-for-all whereby three 24-hour news networks each provide their own particular take on what’s going on in the world today.
Agenda-Driven News: the misinterpretation of actual events
Those channels, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all have different approaches with respect to the stories covered. CNN at least gives the impression that they attempt to apply the same news standards to all stories, though some with conservative leanings loudly dispute such claims. MSNBC focuses its attention on liberal concerns, while Fox News has material geared toward conservatives, even though it claims to be fair and balanced.
Due to the varied agendas in place, distortions and outright falsehoods find their way into each channel’s news coverage. While many in their viewing audiences see nothing wrong with this news gathering concept since it confirms their own pre-conceived notions, the ethics of such decisions can be dangerous because of inaccurate interpretation of actual events is the eventual by-product.
One thing that the three networks have in common with many other news organizations is the willingness to use voice-editing software when it comes to protecting individuals who wish to remain anonymous. This particular device is used on controversial stories in which the person in question is either in fear of losing their job or life because of the disclosures they’re offering.
This isn’t necessarily a dangerous precedent, given that protection of the source is one of the reasons for the voice editing usage. However, its availability for other stories to push a certain agenda should leave the general public wary of its overall use.
CNN: amplifying reality to make it more “newsworthy”
CNN has a hyperbolic penchant for seemingly beginning every hour of coverage with something they consider to be breaking news, even if that news doesn’t warrant that much concern. While that doesn’t constitute voice editing, the breathless manner strains credibility.
More concerning is the selective editing they practiced in the latter half of 2016 that each dealt with volatile racial issues. The first showed a Milwaukee woman whose brother had been shot by police apparently calling for calm. However, full video showed that she urged others to burn down suburban cities.
In the second instance, the shooting of a black man in Charlotte in October sparked criticism about CNN from the police organization, Blue Lives Matter. Their complaint appeared to show that the police officer had shot an unarmed man, which was inaccurate. The network edited out the policeman’s order for the man to drop his gun, which completely changes the context of the confrontation.
MSNBC: editing recordings to spice them up
MSNBC has also been criticized for its inconsistent editing techniques. One of these complaints was directed at a March 2012 story in which a 911 call from George Zimmerman to police during his fatal interaction with Trayvon Martin. The tape was edited to make it seem as if Zimmerman voluntarily mentioned Martin’s race, since Zimmerman had been accused of racial bias in the controversial shooting. That turned out to be incorrect, but helped inflame the volatile situation even further.
Fox News: tweaking videos to create a different story
Fox News has been attacked for their own selective edits that usually attempt to distort the words of Democrats. In the days leading up to the recent presidential election, a Latina reporter interviewed President Obama about citizens possibly being investigated about their citizenship status after voting.
The original tape had comments from Obama that fully explained the protective nature of voting, but the edited comments made it seem as if he was encouraging voter fraud by having illegal immigrants vote in large numbers.
In February 2016, a translation of a French official’s comments about the connection between immigration and the rise of terrorism were drastically changed when presented on Fox News. While the original comments were relatively benign, Fox’s own translation made it appear as if France knowingly welcomed potential terrorists among its incoming immigrants.
Technically, this may not be akin to the use of editing techniques. However, anyone who watches the Fox News version will be presented with a distorted presentation that misrepresents the remarks. That’s something that a news organization should ordinarily try to avoid.
The Bottom Line
The above news organizations have an unspoken bond with the general public to present the actual news, not information that’s massaged in order to make it more palatable for its intended demographic. Credibility is everything in television news, which means the above examples show that these networks still need to improve.