Tag Archives: Media

Transparency And Truth In Charlotte

Wednesday evening, and into the wee hours of Thursday morning, I watched the news from Charlotte, mostly on MSNBC, occasionally clicking over to CNN.

A couple of criticisms of the cable TV news coverage come to mind:

— First, throughout the night, MSNBC covered the news on the street as it happened, in real time. However, the network replayed video of the most dramatic parts of the evening’s civil unrest many times as the hours passed. Showing the worst, most dramatic parts of the protest over and over had the effect of making brief incidents appear to be continuing throughout the evening. The news is bad enough, no need to make it look even worse. I’m not sure to what extent CNN also replayed video.

— Second, a major issue addressed by commentators and interviewees was transparency and truthfulness on the part of the Police Department. Much of the tragic shooting of a black citizen by a black police officer earlier in the week was recorded by body cameras or dashboard cameras. Perhaps there is also cell phone video.

Over and over it was stated that the video in possession of police and prosecutors should be released to the family of the shooting victim, and to the public. The stated assumption is that the video of the shooting will reveal the TRUTH about what really happened. News reporters and anchors failed to challenge the assumption.

It’s unclear how many body cameras and dashboard cameras recorded video. I suspect that police and prosecutors have video from many cameras. Each video will provide visuals from a particular point of view. Probably none of the cameras captured the event in its entirety, from start to finish.

If all the video is released, the public will see many parts of the incident from many different points of view. The video evidence will not be crystal clear or of high quality. Different people will draw different conclusions from all or  parts of the material. What an opportunity for confusion and misinterpretation of evidence.

Most people support “transparency.” But I think we need to give more thought to the most effective way to find the truth. Remember that parts of the video may appear — rightly or wrongly — to incriminate police officers, victims, or even bystanders.

Throughout American history, the acceptable process  for deciding truth, innocence and guilt has been a fair trial by a judge and a jury of peers.

We have a dilemma. Many people in America have lost confidence in the judicial system.  But are we confident that video evidence will enable the public to fairly bypass the judicial process?

Despite the above reservations, releasing the video would relieve some of the rightful anger in Charlotte and throughout America. It’s probably the prudent thing to do.

–John Hayden




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Health Care Coverage in Parallel Universes

The American cable news channels are in full parallel-universe mode today, Saturday.

MSNBC had President Barack Obama, campaigning for health care reform in Minnesota. MSNBC televised the president’s speech in its entirety to a crowd of thousands. MSNBC’s cameras showed wide-angle views of the packed arena, people cheering wildly.

When the president explained the problems facing health care in America, someone in the audience shouted, “We’ve got to do something!” Mr. Obama agreed,  “We’ve got to do something.” It was a long way from Washington, where a congressman shouted at the president this week, “You lie.”

President Obama said he’s not going to waste any more time with cynical politicians who are clearly committed to defeating health care and destroying his presidency.

The crowd in Minnesota was “Fired up!” and “Ready to go!”

Meanwhile, over at FOX News, they were covering an anti-health care rally on the Mall back in Washington. The FOX News camera focused in tightly on a knot of demonstrators (two dozen? a hundred?) and one unknown speaker ranting about the First Amendment and “uniform taxation.” One thing you have to give the health-care opponents, they’re not a single-interest group. No indeed, they’ve got a gunny sack full  of gripes. (Correction: Later in the day I learned that there were a lot more than a hundred demonstrators in Washington. There were thousands and thousands. See note from Lizzi in Comments below.)

FOX was in Texas, too, providing air time to some Texan who was complaining about health care for everyone. What an un-American concept! Health care for all, even the unemployed, even the poor, even people with pre-existing conditions.

The Texan said the government ought to stay out of health care, because the government has no experience running such a program. Umm . . . What about Medicare? Senior citizens seem quite fond of Medicare. Who do you think runs Medicare?  What about Social Security, which has one-percent administrative costs? Who do you think runs Social Security?

And so it goes. MSNBC and FOX News, two professional cable news channels, reporting live from  parallel universes.


Filed under Health