Do you notice editing?

{Ok, so this post isn’t so much for you professionals out there, but there’s something in here for you to consider.}

Over my years of editing, I am always amused to discover that huge numbers of viewers and listeners of all kinds of media, are not aware of the editing and manipulation that is done. All media is edited, crafted & manipulated. Its all about manipulating your audience and the journey you take them on with your program. We cannot get around that fact. We pros live, eat, and  breathe this stuff. We can flip on the discretionary ear or eye and detect the edits as we watch. Sometimes it can’t be seen at first glance, but we can dissect the construction by going back and re-listening/watching closely. Fortunately, we can also flip it off and get lost in the story we are taking in.

But there are lots of people out there who are not aware this goes on. I was reminded of this recently when I revisited an On The Media piece done by the late John Solomon a few years ago. John’s piece brings to the fore, the very issue of editing and manipulation in this insightful look into what goes on behind the scenes to create the coverage you hear on NPR. He has some interesting things to say about listeners and their perception of what goes on:

Yet, is there a small sin of omission? NPR may not be actively misleading listeners, but we all know that they don’t know how we create the cleaner and more articulate reality.

[and this bit later on]

Ironically, television is usually seen as the news medium with artifice, while radio is viewed as more authentic. NPR’s Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin believes trust in television news has declined in part because viewers see it as over-produced entertainment. Is it possible that the fact listeners are unaware of how much production is involved has helped retain their trust in NPR News?

The very concept that consumers of media are not aware of being manipulated is very fascinating to me. The points Solomon covers in the piece about NPR don’t solely apply to public radio. You can easily swap out radio for any other media.

Another “how the sausage is made” look into how media is created occurred in the brilliant Radiolab. Making the Hippo Dance was a Podcast short that explored how the show is pieced together and how they go about transferring very dense, science material to the listening audience. Studio360 also often covers editing in their program.

A more irreverent look at what goes into making television programming is “The Screen Wipe‘s Guide to TV. Charlie Brooker and crew go into all that goes into making TV. It can be a bit racy at times, but its hilarious and so spot on. Also check out his Newswipe series for a scorching look at covering the news.

As media creators, we should always keep up with new techniques and technologies, but we should also keep in mind that there are scads of people out there who don’t know what it takes or don’t care what it takes and just want to be entertained or informed or whatever.

One thought on “Do you notice editing?

  1. I remember a good friend and mentor of mine once told me, “If you have done your job right, no one will know you have done anything at all.”

    It is that invisible hand that I find so appealing about the editing process. It is very much like that of a magician or illusionist, we are able to show just enough to get the audience to relate, or emote or feel whatever they should feel – and mask the rest from view. The technique is important of course, but to be able to cut through the noise and find the message in its purest form is what makes the editor an artist.

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