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Ed Driscoll

Absolutely Botched Credibility

July 27th, 2013 - 1:49 pm

Did ABC produce a “Misleading Edit of [Zimmerman] Juror B29,” as John Sexton writes at Breitbart.com?

Yesterday Breitbart News noted the ABC interview with Juror B29. The big news was that Maddy–her last name was never used to protect her privacy–had told Robin Roberts “George Zimmerman got away with murder.” And indeed if you watch the Nightline edit of the interview she does seem to say that without hesitation or reservation.

However, William Saletan at Slate points out that the unedited interview seems to show something different. Maddy actually hesitates twice when answering Roberts’ question which contains the statement “George Zimmerman got away with murder.” As Saletan points out “she looks as though she’s trying to reconcile the sentiment that’s been quoted to her—that Zimmerman ‘got away with murder’—with her own perspective. So she repeats the quote and adds words of her own, to convey what she thinks: that there’s a justice higher than the law, which Zimmerman will have to face ”

I agree with Saletan’s take on this. Maddy appears to be offering a response to a statement that was presented to her. You can see Maddy’s unedited response in the clip below (Scroll in about 2 minutes).

Click over for the video, and then read John Nolte at Big Journalism, who writes that to clear the record, “ABC News Must Release Full, Unedited Interview with Zimmerman Juror:”

There is no question now that ABC News needs to release the full, unedited interview. There is also no question that if they refuse to, we have every right to believe they have something to hide. After all, this would not be the first time ABC has used video irresponsibly to falsely defame Zimmerman.

Early last year, as the tragic shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin was being manipulated into a national news story in order to galvanize Obama’s base in Florida, a state crucial to his re-election, ABC News was right there in the trenches with the rest.

This is isn’t the first time that ABC’s editing has made a hash of an interviewee’s responses; the House of Stephanopoulos was in the trenches with the rest of the MSM as well in 2008. As Glenn Reynolds noted in September of that year, “Charlie Gibson’s ABC interview with Republican veep candidate Sarah Palin produced a lot of complaints from Palin fans.” In the New York Post, he suggested that interviewees bring their own video camera and cameraman with them, to have raw footage of the interview, to compare to the worked-over network product:

There’s not much anyone in the campaign can do about journalists like Gibson misstating candidates’ “exact words,” but there is something that candidates – and anyone else interviewed by a possibly hostile media – can do to make sure that things get played straight in the editing process.

You just have to break the camera monopoly. Luckily, that’s become easy.

An episode of “The Simpsons” a few years back centered on Homer facing bogus sexual-harassment charges. A TV news show (“Rock Bottom”) interviewed him and edited his innocuous statements to make them sound incriminating. (To make the joke clear, the hands on a clock in the background were in a different position for almost every word). Ultimately, Homer was saved only because Groundskeeper Willie turned out to have shot video that exonerated him.

Real life isn’t “The Simpsons” (though politics are seeming more and more cartoonish these days). Still, TV is all about the editing – and even modest tweaks can drastically change how an interviewee comes across.

So, when you sit down for an interview (unless it’s live), you’re putting yourself, like Homer, at the mercy of the editors. Usually they’re honest, but not always.

But there’s a remedy now, with technology being what it is. If I were a candidate, I think I’d bring my own camera to interviews, shoot the whole thing and post the unedited raw video on the Web.

The technology for this is easy – I’ve got a little Sony HD video camera that records on a chip and fits in a coat pocket or purse – and putting video on the Web is a snap, too.

Of course, the knowledge that this will happen is likely to be enough to keep people honest – but if anything is edited unfairly, the full video will tell the tale. No need to wait for Groundskeeper Willie to appear.

TV journalists won’t be happy with this, of course, but it’s hard to see a principled basis for objecting.

The following month, Gibson would confess to an interviewer that “We gave a lot of time to the Palin thing. We’re not going to make it absolutely equal because she’s new on the scene, so simply … it’s important to expose her, more so than Joe Biden.”

Fortunately, Gibson’s biases also helped to further “expose” ABC’s shoddy journalism. At Red State in 2008, Martin Knight wrote that if Palin had brought someone with her to document the taping of her interview, “Gibson would be spooked … and that’s a good thing. Because he’ll know that whatever he cuts will definitely finds it way to YouTube:”

When British reporter Martin Bashir (strangely enough, now of ABC just like Charlie Gibson) went to interview Michael Jackson in 2003, Jacko apparently had an inkling that Bashir had already decided on the story he wanted to tell … and he was perfectly willing to edit and cut the interview till it matched.

So Michael – uncharacteristically – did something smart.

Regarding his 2003 dialogue with Michael Jackson, titled Living with Michael Jackson critics contend the documentary was yellow journalism, claiming Bashir edited the tapes in a sensational manner that only presented Jackson in an unflattering light. After seeing the edited version of the interview, Jackson released a rebuttal interview, filmed by his personal cameraman.

Granted, it didn’t make Michael look much better, but it sure as heck made Bashir look like a sleazebag.

Bashir’s now with MSNBC, and certainly has done little to change his reputation as a sleazebag. But sadly, he’s far from the only the example in the MSM — both in front of the cameras, and behind the scenes.

Oh, and speaking of being videotaped:

One of the most important, and remarkably under-publicized facts that came out at trial is that one of the detectives, while interrogating Zimmerman at the police station that night, told him that the entire incident had been caught on surveillance video. The detective was bluffing, but Zimmerman didn’t know that. His reaction: “Thank God.”

“Thank God.” How many people who do something wrong, lie about it and are told it’s on tape react that way?

Of course, it’s worth noting that bias in the MSM’s coverage of George Zimmerman’s trial certainly isn’t the sole province of television news.

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