The Power of Editing

With all the coverage we saw last week of the Shirley Sherrod story, one thing stands out for me: the whole episode, the truncated video, the firing, the rehiring, the apologies — it’s all an object lesson in the power of editing, not just to change movies, but to change lives. And it’s a reminder, too, that media illiteracy knows no social or cultural boundaries. How many powerful people saw that snippet without thinking, “hey, maybe there’s a context”? We all want to believe that cinema tells the truth. And so we are constantly fooled by what passes for reporting. We hear a lot about improving schools and creating national achievement standards, but there’s precious little talk about media education, about teaching kids how to interpret the deluge of images they are assaulted with every day. If this episode tells us anything, it’s that the adults need some media education, too — starting with an understanding of the power of editing.

If you’re curious, here’s Sherrod’s full speech. And the edited version.

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3 Comments on “The Power of Editing”

  1. mark raudonis Says:

    Don’t kid yourself. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing!

    Mark

  2. Philipp Says:

    Of course they knew exactly what they were doing. But Steve hit the nails head: editing, in picture and/or text, is powerful. Every power may be used or misused/abused. And that’s why journalistic responsibility should be discussed much more often. Take the TV-Station FOX for example, or the British SUN-“news”paper, or BILD-“news”paper in Germany. Most of the people read and watch exactly those media and although they don’t believe every word they get told, they get influenced at least. And that’s why journalism without responsibility is dangerous, just like any power used without responsibility is.

  3. Steve Says:

    Exactly. Most casual observers of TV news may be skeptical, but they don’t know what’s missing. Video is so compelling and convincing that we somehow rarely think, “what’s being left out?” This case is a perfect example. If you saw even five minutes of the full speech you’d have a totally different view of it — and it would become something pretty unremarkable and unworthy of all the attention it got.


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