What Katie Couric's deceptive editing can teach us about media bias
Don't believe everything you read, see, or hear...
Katie Couric has finally apologized for her misleading editing of a documentary on gun violence. But that shouldn't be the end of this sordid story.
Couric's documentary, Under the Gun, shows her interviewing members of a gun rights organization, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. She asks activists from the group, "If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?"
The documentary then shows the silent faces of the activists, giving the impression that they were stumped by the question, for nine awkward seconds. It's powerful.
Oh, except for one problem: In reality, as audio uncovered by the Washington Free Beacon shows, the activists did give a range of answers, including sophisticated ones.
Jon Stewart turned this sort of deceptive editing into a classic form of comedy. After a question, he would splice in unrelated footage of the interviewee staring to make him or her look stumped, or stupid, or awkward, to great comedic effect. But Stewart was a comedian and never claimed to be a Serious Journalist. Katie Couric is supposed to be a Serious Journalist.
Editing is a craft. No professional video editor who decided to add the footage of stumped gun-rights activists in this particular spot could fail to know what the result would be. Couric's initial excuse that the "pause" was intended as a "dramatic effect" to "give the audience a moment to consider the question." That is simply not credible.
And yet, this is just an uncommonly egregious example of the very-common progressive bias of many figures in the supposedly mainstream media. While they usually don't resort to being actively deceptive, journalists, intentionally or not, frequently frame subjects in a way that advances a progressive narrative.
But what rankles me most about this case is the hypocrisy.
Remember how last July a group called the Center for Medical Progress started publishing videos exposing Planned Parenthood's practice of trafficking body parts obtained from aborted fetuses? And how Planned Parenthood issued talking points calling the videos "deceptively edited"?
I point this out because Couric, who has marched in support of abortion rights, conducted softball interviews with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, in which she called the videos "edited." (A dubious claim, at best.) As The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway points out, Couric's write-up of the Richards interview stated that the videos "were edited together in a way to depict Planned Parenthood employees talking about selling fetal tissue, which is illegal." Apparently, a far worse sort of "editing" is a-okay for Couric herself.
But it's not just about Couric. Matt Continetti, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon, which got the scoop about Couric, had a bit of deserved fun at the expense of The New York Times, which covered the Couric controversy under this headline: "Audio of Katie Couric Interview Shows Editing Slant in Gun Documentary, Site Claims." "Site Claims"!
No claims by a site are necessary. The audio shows that the gun video was deceptively edited. Full stop.
It's almost as if the mainstream media is trying to confirm the conservative caricature of the elite liberal media as a dishonest, self-dealing clique out to impose their own worldview and protect their own interests...