Thursday, April 12, 2007

Truth in Advertising

On at least one count the BBC has it right: They refer to the anchor-person for their newscasts on both radio and television as a "news reader." This removes any connotation of (or responsibility for) reporting or editing from the anchor desk. This does not make the BBC an inferior news source. It just recognizes how labor is divided in their operations.

On the other hand when CBS decides that their "Evening News" program is going to have a segment entitled "Katie Couric's Notebook," then there is a very strong connotation that Ms. Couric is going to share a personal reflection with her audience in her own words. That, at any rate, is what theory tells us; but in the world of television (and probably lots of other worlds) practice is quite a different matter. This is why a recent installment of "Katie Couric's Notebook" turned out to be plagiarized from The Wall Street Journal; and this particular genie came out of the bottle. As Steve Gorman reported for Reuters, it fell to spokeswoman Sandy Genelius to announce that the "producer responsible for Couric's piece was fired." In plainer language Ms. Couric does not write the words in "Katie Couric's Notebook;" and CBS has now sacked the author of those particular plagiarized words, which Ms. Couric may not have even seen prior to air time.

So what happened to "personal reflection?" Here is the tail end of Gorman's story:

Genelius said Couric met with a group of producers weekly to discuss upcoming topics for her "Notebook" video essays, and "she does write some of them herself."

"Sometimes the text is written by the producer," she added. "That's the way television generally works. It's a very collaborative medium."

I suppose that calling this segment "Katie Couric's Notebook" was also the result of a collaborative effort. Not only does this leave me wondering how many "collaborators" were involved; but it also reminds me that Europeans are very reluctant to use any variation of the noun "collaboration" because of the connotation with some of the more distasteful activities that took place during the Second World War!

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