In Journalism, Credibility is Currency

A few months ago I created a video showing how Israel’s Channel 10 news re-edited an interview conducted by one newscaster, in order to make it seem like it was done by another. I concluded my post saying:

…unlike other professions like advertising, sales or law where honesty is no longer expected — in journalism, credibility is currency. We don’t expect our newsmen to lie to us — not intentionally, not wittingly — and finding out otherwise is disheartening.

My video was quoted a couple of times, most notably in an article by Oren Persico in The 7th Eye, Israel’s media review website. With this minor brouhaha, I hoped the Israeli media would look at the big picture, understand the impact doctored footage makes on the viewers, and draw the appropriate conclusions. Apparently that was not the case, as Channel 10 chose to suspend the newscaster that ‘got caught’, while knowing full well this practice continues.

Today, on Channel 2 another such incident was revealed when newscaster Oren Weigenfeld wanted to show an interview “we conducted an hour ago” but the footage that was played was not the ready-for-air version, but the raw material where it is quite clear he is not the one conducting the interview, but acting for the camera while a pre-taped interview is being played.

H/T: Ynet

We Find the Defendant Guilty of Being Stupid

Measuring the speed in which rumors spread, it seems Israel is not much bigger than a Shtetl. The latest rumor circulating in the past few days was about Israeli entertainer Dudu Topaz‘s alleged involvement in the assault of TV executive Shira Margalit. I usually assume people are innocent, until they start vehemently denying any wrongdoing. It isn’t scientific but I usually think those who try hardest to prove their innocence are usually guilty. Watching Topaz vehemently deny any wrongdoing on Channel 2, I thought it was strange he mentioned driving to his ex-wife who ‘lives near Margalit’. Why would I care where he was? Up to that moment I assumed he hasn’t done anything wrong, so why try to charm me with irrelevant facts? He could have been on the moon for all I care, and still could have hired someone to attack Margalit, so how confessing to his whereabouts contribute to his efforts of dismissing these rumors?

Apparently, I was not the only one noticing it, as today’s Maariv took this unnecessary sentence and made it into a full page article (an extra-large holiday-edition page), including a street map that is supposed to prove Topaz had no business entering Margalit’s street. If only Topaz had watched this presentation by professor James Duane of the Regent University School of Law in Virginia titled ‘In Praise of the Fifth Amendment: Why No Criminal Suspect Should Ever Talk to the Police‘:

It’s A Wonderful Country After All

Look on us,
Look on them –
Who is more similar to you?
  – – mock rapper X-Plain – Throws on you TIL

With 4 out of 5 Israelis supporting the current military campaign in Gaza, Channel 2’s popular satirical show Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country) could have chosen to go on vaction so not to be controversial under fire. They could have ran old episodes for that fluffy feel-good feeling viewers might crave, and no one would have contested. But the higher-ups decided to be brave and present critical views when they can still make a difference.

Now on its sixth season and with more than 30 percent of Israelis watching, Eretz Nehederet is at the cutting edge when it comes to Israeli satire, slaughtering whatever sacred cows are left in this country, using a tongue-in-cheek approach. Check out three short examples (translated to English) from the last two weeks, the first two videos were broadcast just 3 days after the campaign had started.

Ehud Barak predicting the phases of war from euphoria to dysphoria:

The public opinion of acceptable body count:

Rapping for world understanding:

Tonight on Your Evening News: Cast Lead and Must Leather

Wars don’t happen in winter anymore
Even for us it is a bit too cold to hate
Wars don’t happen in winter anymore
Even for us it’s a bit too cold to conquer
   – – “Big Hero” by Si Himan (translated from Hebrew)

Channel 10 anchorwoman Miki Haimovich (right) and senior defense correspondent Alon Ben-David (left) modeling wartime leatherwear - December 28, 2008

I have already written on Israeli journalists playing dress-up, but that was during peacetime. Now that a new war might be imminent, it seems our journalists collectively decided to wear uniform in the form of leather jackets. I have been glued to the TV screen during the past few days, zapping between Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Ten – and it looks like one hideous leatherwear catalog from the 1990’s that magically came to life:

Leather by Gaza - Mixed Channels

We already knew soldiers have their standard operating procedures – but now we know TV newsmen have them too.
Continue reading Tonight on Your Evening News: Cast Lead and Must Leather

Analog News Editors In A Digital World – A Case Study

There are four major methods used on TV to obscure a person’s face so that he would not be recognized:

  • Pixelization: during editing, a video graphics filter is used to lower the resolution of the footage
  • Black bars: during editing, a graphical element is superimposed over the footage
  • Extreme close-up: focusing during filming on a single facial feature, such as lips or eyes
  • Silhouette: adjusting the camera exposure during filming so that the person appears totally black

The latter method was used during yesterday’s evening news, in a pre-taped press conference. Since this was not a live broadcast, there was no reason for any slip-up, and for the most part I could only see the silhouette of the woman talking. But when some still photojournalists used their camera flash, it lit the entire room and for a split second revealed the face of the woman.
Now perhaps during the 1990’s this kind of incident would not amount to much, since you could not rewind live TV or use your computer to download the news – but those analog days are long gone, and it is about time people in the Israeli media would recognize that fact.

Since this is not the first time I have noticed the Israeli media dropping the ball on this issue, I thought I would present a case study of the three Israeli broadcast channels, examining yesterday’s cover of that news conference:

Continue reading Analog News Editors In A Digital World – A Case Study