by Jalyssa Eliasen
After reading Elements of NPR Gotcha Video Taken out of Context by David Folkenflik, it got me thinking about some of the broadcasting controversies I recall that are or claim to have been taken “out of context.”
- The Ron Schiller and Vivian Schiller video from early March 2011, made by James O’Keefe.
- The Navy videos from early January 2011.
- The Shirley Sherrod video from July 2010
What propels these “out-of-context” videos into viral popularity, causing slanted broadcast coverage and sometimes legal ramifications? What allows them (especially the first and last) to fall through the cracks of good quality journalism?
It is never a good idea to sacrifice truth for deadlines, but journalists perpetually find the need to do this. I do think that speed is important, but not for the sake of LYING, which is what journalists do if they are not propelling the truth. Why not write in a way that is non-incriminating?
For example, in the Shirley Sherrod case, why not have said, “No word yet on whether or not this is the entire video, or an edited version taken out of context”? Why play the blame game and assume she is racist? This disappoints me and is simply sloppy journalism unworthy of public trust.
How about we try what’s been suggested on Journalism.org:
- Be obliged to the truth.
- Be loyal to our citizens.
- Verify the truth.
- Remain independent.
- Provide a public forum.
- Keep news relevant.
- Keep the news understandable.
These are pretty reasonable qualifications. If only journalists could put their ego aside and return to the fundamentals of good quality journalism instead of concern themselves with “getting ahead,” then we’d certainly have a promising idea.
Take a look at the “ethical” nature of O’Keefe’s journalism: