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Re: Taking control of the documentary situation, an immodest proposal

One of my family members is an Emmy award winning television producer,
and this is what they had to say about Matt's situation:

Well...wow. I've made spelling errors in programs and it totally bites
when it happens. But this just goes from bad to worst.

Your friend has the right to be angry. His professional reputation is
on the line. Program did use his bite out of context. I would not have
done that. In fact while working on the water documentary I called
people to double check my facts. No excuses. NONE!

I don't know for certain what your friend's legal rights are, but if
the show is misrepresenting what he originally said - he should get a
greedy ambulance chasing lawyer. While there have been times here at
my job that people didn't want certain info (Warren Buffet) to be
included in a program. We respected his position and made sure we made
necessary changes to avoid embarrassing him. It's wasn't news and
therefore we were not altering content to placate Buffet. But, if I'd
cut together something that made an interview subject say something
they didn't...I'd be fired.

In your email, you said: ‘Someone in the editing room cut away the
framing explanation and left me presenting a thoroughly discredited
idea as if it was current science.’ In your interview you carefully
set out a context in which you made your argument, a context that was
perhaps not included in the show as carefully (lawyer talk) as it
could have been. Whether this was in the interests of brevity or not,
(hmmm..??) I entirely appreciate your position. We had no wish to
suggest you were presenting an old, discredited argument, we were
simply working on the show ever aware of the demands of our audience.
(Ok. Their audience apparently doesn't demand to hear your friend's
scientific opinion that is based on fact. Lame. Lame. Lame. Total BS.
They could have framed his soundbite with an accurate brief
narrative.) This does not excuse a part of the program which was
perhaps (lawyer language again) not edited with as much finesse as it
could have been and consequently I will make your concerns clear to
the production team (as team leader he needs to be first in line) in
the hope that we may avoid such situations again. (Language to appease
your friend so he doesn't sue. Cuz gosh, nothing like a good scolding
to fix this problem.)

            While I hope this clarifies our position, I will endeavor
to call you to ensure all your concerns are properly heard. (I'd say
the production company needs to endeavor the producer to fix the show
or shelve it. DVDs,too.)

In a nutshell, this guy is trying to reach an amicable agreement with
your friend. Don't be fooled by how he's crafted this note. The
production company is trying to cover their bases through a well
crafted note. The reason they aren't fixing it is because a). it's
going to mess with their storyline b). and most importantly, going to
cost mondo money to fix - so they just want your friend to whine and
go away.

Now to fix the problem. If your friend is seriously worried this
program is going to damage his professional reputation then he should
consider consulting a lawyer. Of course, Discovery is huge...they will
lawyer up, too. BUT if he really wants to beat them at their own game
tell him to get a video camera and have him plead his case on video.
Then post that video on youtube and facebook. Get friends to circulate
it to friends. Be sure he states the facts (nothing inflammatory -
just call their journalism ethics into question) and...he needs to be
passionate. Maybe have him hold a model of the dinosaur in question to
help explain. (We're not all scientist after all...) Perhaps a video
title that says, "Discovery Channel Wrongs Paleontologist." Discovery
will hate the negative publicity - and that may get him what he wants
in the end.

Lee Hall
Paleontology Undergraduate
Museum of the Rockies
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT

On Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 11:31 AM, Andreas Johansson <andreasj@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 6:36 PM, Jaime Headden <qi_leong@hotmail.com> wrote:
>> Andreas Johnson said:
>> <Matt said "not X". They cut it down to "X". If that's not quote-mining, 
>> nothing is.>
>>   See, that's where it isn't so simple. The reporter, in Matt's own words, 
>> includes cautionary language, the "may"s and "maybe"s of:
>>   "This was sort of like a second brain to help control the back half of the 
>> body."
>>   This statement is entirely consistent and non-innaccurate with regards to 
>> what Matt wrote.
> No it isn't. The preceding words were "And for a while it was thought
> that may be", the removal of which changes it from a statement about
> what was thought into one about what is.
>> The problem is that the temporalism was removed, and the quoted individual 
>> apparentrly expected not only the full caveat (including the temporalism) 
>> was to be retained, but that they would quote the whole explanation. In a 
>> short, short interview. It represents a sort of naievte with regards to what 
>> seems to be a lackadaisical understanding of science journalism today, and a 
>> weakness on the part of the quoted not to phrase his statement in such a way 
>> as to prevent such mangling.
> Whether Matt Wedel expressed himself poorly doesn't affect whether the
> quote was accurate or not.
>> It certainly doesn't seem to have been done to intentionally misconstrue 
>> what he said, and therein lies the heart of the issue: Quote mining, as I 
>> mentioned before, is a hot-topic buzzword meant to invoke an attitude of 
>> misquote out of context in order to _intentionally_ create a false premise. 
>> This did not occur; the science journalism was sloppy, and the 
>> editor/producer did not have the knowledge required to correctly note how 
>> much of the caveat should have been retained (more than just "This was sort 
>> of like").
> Quote mining is taking a quote out of context so that it seems to say
> something different from what it does in context - intent is generally
> impossible to demonstrate. (As is lack of intent.)
> Also, that an editor/producer knows that removing "it was thought
> that" changes the meaning of what follows is hardly an unreasonable
> expectation.
> --
> Andreas Johansson
> Why can't you be a non-conformist just like everybody else?