Sometimes in anger, in fear, in haste, or maybe while being intoxicated, or consumed by infatuation, we speak, write, or through body language communicate to others a distorted version of what our true thoughts, opinions, or intentions are.
Distortion happens to all of us and we suffer, usually through embarrassment, as a result. It’s one of the many attributes which, for lack of a better label, makes us human. “I didn’t mean that.” “That’s not what I said.” “That’s not what I meant.” It’s almost a sure bet that you have uttered, firmly stated, or perhaps shouted one of the aforementioned quotations. No matter.
Slipping up when speaking never seems to be a mistake which is defeated by age, education, or faith. It just happens. I pose this question: What if your words or the words spoken about you were twisted by an individual or entity (media) and the sole purpose of this twisting was simply to add a little spice, awe, or head-shaking to what would otherwise be ho-hum?
Let me add this bit of information to give you a hint of where I’m going with all of this. I spent a block of my adult working life in the employment of a very large broadcast news organization. I was on-air talent as it’s called, and, as a result, I gained a “certain perspective” about the news media.
As a phrase, label, or headline, Fake News has existed, in my opinion, since the day news reporting began back in the stone age. Come on, admit it to yourself: Doesn’t everyone like a good story?
Getting the story is the toughest part of reporting the story. In college, in journalism class, they taught the mechanics of the interview, but not the reality. The reality is being under a time-gun, a deadline, dealing with a producer, or a news director. The clock is ticking and you have a story to get and you need it, now! And it better be good, because fresh college grads are lined-up and ready to take your place constantly.
So, let’s take our reporter, on any given day, with an assignment to get the story about Mr. Jones.
Back to day one of journalism class: The professor asks, “What is news?” And shocking, kick-in-the-head, almost comical answer is; Whatever the reporter makes it. That’s a pretty powerful position, wouldn’t you agree?
Back to our scenario. However, Mr. Jones cannot be located. The reporter has gone around, pounded the pavement and a few doors and there is no finding Mr. Jones. There’s still a deadline and all the rest of the pressure to produce a story. What’s the reporter to do?
Think fast. If you are a reporter, you have no choice but to think fast. The answer to this conundrum is to interview someone who knows Mr. Jones, which could be an immediate family member, neighbor, co-worker, former spouse, or how about that former employer. And the clock goes tick, tick, tick.
The reporter locates Mr. Smith, a good friend of the missing in action Mr. Jones. This puts Mr. Smith in what could be called an uncomfortable position. Feeling trapped and uneasy, Mr. Smith figures that he had better try and do his best to not embarrass himself or his good friend Mr. Jones. After all, once cornered for the interview, if Mr. Smith told the reporter that he had nothing to say about Mr. Jones there could be a problem.
The reporter, tick, tick, tick, could very well report that he asked Mr. Smith, a good friend of Mr. Jones, but Mr. Smith refused to answer any of a dozen questions and the reporter would take that nothing and intrigue his listeners, viewers, or readers with the speculation as to why Mr. Smith was tight-lipped about speaking about Mr. Jones. Remember, whatever the reporter makes it, is news.
Remarkably, no story becomes a big story based on the fact that there is no story to tell, but once a reporter knows that no answers are being volunteered by Mr. Smith, it opens the floodgates for the listener, viewer, or reader to draw their own conclusions. This sort of thinking can be applied even if the most preposterous questions are asked by the reporter on a deadline, e.g., Does Mr. Jones speak to aliens? When was the last time you witnessed Mr. Jones losing his temper? Is he rude to people less fortunate? Does he act differently around the Holiday Season? You get the picture. Not speaking can be worse than saying something.
This same thought crosses Mr. Smith’s mind, so he reluctantly and nervously agrees to an interview with the reporter who has been hounding him all day.
Face-to-face with the reporter Mr. Smith does his best to wear a smile while telling the reporter that Mr. Jones is always in a good mood and liked by friends and neighbors and impresses everyone he meets, because he has such a positive attitude. No clouds in Mr. Jones’ life, just sunshine the whole day through. He gives one hundred ten percent of his energy to his industry and prides himself in his work. Devotion to family is a testament to his character and all that he reaps he bestows on his wife.
Mr. Jones sounds like the Man of the Year to the reporter, but the reporter has to appeal to the listener, viewer, or reader, so it’s gotta have some kinks and some around-the-water-cooler good old-fashioned gossip attached, because without that, the listeners, viewers, or readers will be looking for greener (dirtier) pastures on which to graze.
Remember, whatever the reporter makes it. Time for the Fake News apparatus to be applied to this story. Pull out the seasonings and let’s spice this baby up. Start the twist party! And so, the interview is filed by the reporter.
Mr. Jones isn’t the serious type and has a salesman’s way about him that tells him which buttons to push to get people to like him. He devotes so much time to his job that you could label Mr. Jones a slave of the workforce in his industry and finds no time for devotion to anything that doesn’t benefit him personally. One habit he repeats at every turn is spoiling his wife, perhaps out of fear of losing her to a more well-rounded man.
Just think of the frustration Mr. Jones will have when he gets wind of the interview which Mr. Smith gave about him. Mr. Smith has nowhere to hide and I suspect that Mr. Jones will morph into an out-of-character clone of himself as he confronts Mr. Smith.
The reporter makes it seem credible by quoting a source, or in what has become more and more common, an anonymous source, or a source close to, or the Russians!
Now that you have read this piece, perhaps you’ll remember that news is whatever the reporter makes it and shock value is on the rise.
Lazz Laszlo is a Versatile Voice Over resource for Radio & Television commercials, Narrations, Corporate Videos, Animation, Infomercials with the ability to write swift clean copy for Radio, TV, Print, or Presentation. Lazz is a former Investment Executive and Radio & Television Financial Reporter with many entrepreneurial endeavors to his credit