lol… poor NBC journalists… sitting there just trying to write their stories and shit while the bureaucrats get all up in their stuff…
On today’s episode of Media Ethics… we have NBC supposedly delaying the release of Trump’s “Grab ’em by the pussy” tapes because of its fear of getting its butt sued off by D Trump.
Case in point: on Friday, as I’m sure you’re already aware, the Washington Post published a video of Donald Trump happily discussing sexually assaulting women, and how it’s okay because he’s a celebrity. As you also know, this became the story of Friday and the weekend, as it appeared to push a bunch of people who had previously supported Trump over the edge to pull their support (why this story rather than earlier ones, I don’t fully understand, but…).
Either way, the story led to a few different varieties of followup stories about how the Washington Post got the story. And all of them note that Access Hollywood found the tape itself last Monday, and realized it was newsworthy. They then took it to their corporate parent, NBC, and some work was done on getting the story out — but it kept getting pushed back. This led many to ask why it could possibly take so long for NBC to report on this. They knew the tape was authentic, so they didn’t need to confirm that.
On Saturday, though, we finally got an answer: NBC held up the story because it was afraid of getting sued.
Although NBC and “Access” both recognized the newsworthiness of the tape and intended to air it, it first had to undergo a review by the company’s lawyers, the executive said. The executive was unaware of any specific legal issue raised by airing an 11-year-old recording of a presidential candidate who was apparently aware at the time that he was being recorded by a TV program.
However, the network was concerned that Trump could take legal action; the Republican nominee threatened to sue NBC last year after the network’s entertainment division dropped plans to air the Miss USA beauty pageant in the wake of Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants. Trump backed off those threats when NBC sold its share of the pageant’s rights to him in September 2015.
So there’s that… Honestly it isn’t exactly surprising. I’m scared of getting my butt sued off all the time as well.
For NBC, it’s a costly nuisance that very well could mean no new hiring, or cost of living raises, or things like travel allowances because they now have to re-balance their budgets for a million dollars in extra legal fees. For me, it’d mean my life is over.
That is in fact the reality of our current legal system. True legal help is unaffordable to any but the wealthy. Even upper middle class individuals can be brought into poverty from a civil suit. Can you honestly say that you can pay 6 figures in legal fees and 7 years of your life without trouble? I doubt it.
So when Mike Masnick goes on to say in his article that this case of NBC delaying the tapes is a real world example of the chilling effects to speech of frivolous lawsuits… he is entirely right.
Now to continue!
Supposedly… there was even talk of selectively editing the tape at NBC:
Although there is no confirmation as to who leaked the footage, the source tells PEOPLE that it was both “purposeful” and “not a low-level leak.”
“They could have released the tape and edited him out,” the source says of the individual that leaked the footage. “That was the plan — they were trying to approve it and then someone leaked it. That’s what Access Hollywood eventually did and they played it … but it was already out,” the source says and adds, “If they wanted to protect him, they could have edited it out which they did on the final Access piece that aired on Friday, but they left it in when it was leaked.”
(According to an NBC spokesperson: “There absolutely was never a consideration by NBC News to edit the tape.”)
And we have now arrived at our destination! Ethics-ville!
While NBC does not seem to have had the chance to do any selective editing… selective editing is in fact bad. Unethical. Dishonest. Some of the time at least. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that nobody at NBC ever brought up editing the tapes. There’s just no way that at least one person in their little executive / lawyer huddle didn’t spitball editing the tapes…
So I find NBC’s response to be a little unbelievable. What NBC probably meant is that there were no serious plans to do so. For all we know the person who said they had planned to edit the tapes overheard the spitballing portion of the discussion….
Yes… well… anyways….
Why is selective editing bad?
Selective editing is bad because it can change the entire tone of a media piece.
What do you mean by that?
I once read a Reuters piece on the conflict in Yemen right as it was posted on ‘the wire’. It was a simple statement saying US personnel were being moved away from a coordination facility (apparently where air strikes were being coordinated between the Saudi coalition and US / Syria coalition forces) because there simply wasn’t a need for them anymore. I later discovered that quotes from government officials were then inserted into the article at a later time, without mentioning they were not originally part of the article.
Those quotes changed the entire tone of the article. The quotes made the reader come away with the notion that the US was moving its coordinators out because of possible war crimes in Yemen. It made it sound like the US government was doing something moral (which is what public sentiment wants) when really it was a technical issue.
And that’s why selective editing is generally a bad idea… an unethical idea. And you know, that’s why I’d call it selective editing instead of just editing. There’s a kind of… dishonest… aspect to it.
Wait what were we talking about… so is that what NBC did? Selective editing?
Nope. At least not that anybody is aware of. From what we know, NBC didn’t even have the opportunity to do so since the Washington Post reported the tape before NBC could even get it out of its lawyer huddle.
They simply didn’t have a chance to be ethical or unethical.
Another case of Media Ethics solved!
Media Ethics Score: N/A (sorry guys, the media wasn't out to get you on this one)