Monday, June 5, 2017

Fake News At CNN?

I saw reports accusing a CNN news crew of faking a protest by Muslims against the terrorist attack on London Bridge. At least the video circulating on social media seems to show them arranging and posing the protesters – but I don’t know the full context and what happened before or after, so I can’t say what really happened.

I was reminded, though, of a time when I was involved with a fake newscast of sorts.
It was 17 years ago. I was a reporter for a newspaper, and one of my beats was local politics. Some folks involved with the county legislature were holding a press conference on some issue, and I and number of other print, radio and television reporters showed up at the appointed time and asked enough questions so we could all go back to our respective news outlets and create reports.

The press conference had ended and I was lingering to talk with one of the interviewees I knew when a cameraman from a local television station came rushing in. The station had a reputation for being frugal (to be polite) so they had only a few news cameras, and often sent cameramen out without reporters just to film something so they could say they covered the event, often, as in this case, arriving late.

The cameraman looked crestfallen, realizing he had gotten there way too late to get any film. The interviewee said he would be willing to answer some questions, but the cameraman admitted that he only had the press release and really knew nothing about the issue at hand. They had just sent him out to film answers to other people’s questions.

I looked at the interviewee, who looked back at me, then I turned to the cameraman and said, “I can ask a couple of questions so you can get something.”

He looked relieved.

So I sat off camera and asked a couple of the questions I’d asked earlier, the interviewee sat at the table as if he was still doing the press conference (we even put my mike on the table in front of him along with a couple of other mikes to make it look real), and the cameraman filmed the responses.

That night, I turned on the station’s newscast. When the press conference report came on, an on-air personality (i.e. good-looking reporter) who had not been at the press conference asked one of the questions I’d asked as if he’d been there asking it, and then the report showed footage of the interviewee answering (my) question.

The on-air personality looked good (of course). The cameraman got his shot. The interviewee got coverage.

I chuckled then at the little deception.

Now, I just shrug and wonder what conversations are going on at CNN.

Pax et bonum

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