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Friday, February 24, 2006

CBS News does it again 

CBS News has altered another document in the production of a news magazine show. This time, "48 Hours Mystery" manipulated the front page of the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune in an episode about a murder trial. This offense is trivial in its consequences compared its previous attempt to throw a presidential election, but it does suggest that CBS News can still make big improvements in the control of its internal processes. It is particularly ironic -- almost hilarious -- that in this case CBS News manufactured an "exhibit" in a documentary that alleged that its subject, Ryan Ferguson, may have been wrongly convicted of murder.

8 Comments:

By Blogger Coyote, at Sat Feb 25, 01:47:00 AM:

It is interesting how fast the appology and retraction came and how heartfelt and abject it is, particularly vis a vis the fake memos of 2004, and particularly since the actual misrepresentation of reality here is minor compared to the faked guard memos.

Beyond just the Bush-hatred thing, my sense that the difference may be due even more to the fact that the wronged party was a newspaper, ie a fellow member of the journalistic establishment. In other words, "one of us."  

By Anonymous mmiller, at Sat Feb 25, 02:45:00 AM:

How can it be a mistake to specifically change an image? It wasn't like they just cleaned up the image. They substituted another picture which would require someone finding another picture and resizing it to fit. In view of that then, what purpose was served by altering the image?

The first thing that springs to my mind is that the altered image has the convicted murderer looking like a nice young man. The actual image that was in the paper shows him looking like a criminal in an orange jumpsuit.
Having seen some of this 48 Hours Mystery story, I would say that CBS altered the image to further their slant that the guy was wrongly convicted...he's just a nice young man.

In the grand scheme of things, this incident is not a big deal, but to me it just shows the mentality that exists in the news media that a little fudging of the truth is fine if it furthers the story they want to tell. Not what I'm really looking for in my news provider.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Sat Feb 25, 07:52:00 AM:

A few observations:

What this shows in my mind, and it's critical, is that the media, whose sole job is to report the news, are not willing to just report the story to us, straight -- they feel justified in altering it to fit whatever preconceived "storyline" they've decided ahead of time to feed us.

Exactly what is different here from what the US was trying to do over in the ME? Get out a predetermined message that was essentially true via a proxy (the substituted photo in someone else's paper)? And their defense was... "hey - it doesn't change the essential truth of the story".

How ironic.

What was it they called this when the government did it? Propaganda?

Except the government had a legitimate purpose and propaganda is a legitimate tool of statecraft. If you read the definition of propaganda, it has both positive and negative connotations.

It is *not* a legitimate tactic for news organizations.  

By Anonymous rhodeymark, at Sat Feb 25, 10:19:00 AM:

mmiller - right on the money (touches nose and points). It has been argued in courts (including The Supremes in Estelle v. Williams) that the appearance of a defendant can (and as was found, indeed does) prejudice a jury. In this case, the jury being the legions of CSI freaks that CBS cultivates weekly. CBS' contempt for the out of town jury that actually sat in this case is appalling. They reported that the only real deliberation was one of degree, not the guilt of this possible sociopath.  

By Blogger J. Peden, at Sat Feb 25, 08:57:00 PM:

I came upon this story via Instapundit and was surprised to find it was about the murder of Kent Heitholt, because I knew Kent - and his father, Bill, much better. Bill coached me in highschool and is one who I consider an eternal friend. I had lost touch with the events since the murder but often wondered just what kind of beast murdered Kent. I didn't think the case would be solved.

Now I see that the perpetrator looks like a clean cut, uncriminal young adult male. But I'll have to admit that even the jail-suit picture surprised me as to the appearance of the beast, which I had imagined much differently, perhaps proving the point that the altered picture is even more incriminating of the bias involved by the producers at CBS when directing the story to viewing "jurors".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 26, 05:37:00 AM:

mmiller, your comments so precisely were in accord with my thoughts that I have little left to say. Yowsa.  

By Blogger John, at Tue Feb 28, 11:22:00 AM:

"It was a graphic, and we don’t feel it changed the editorial value of the story, per se."

Horse puckeys. Pictures (and often music) create the context in which the text is considered.

For instance, would our perception of a post-Katrina New Orleans story be the same with a picture of a child's tricycle hanging from a high-line wire as it would with a picture of, say, the dancing baby from Ally McBeal?

I think not.  

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