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Different Reality than TV

A longtime friend of mine Dick Olson, who lives in New Hampshire, took time to hear candidates Kerry, Dean, Edwards and Clark live. He wrote a little synopsis of each for his friends. The line that struck me most was:
They’re far different “In Person” than they appear on TV.

So how do we help get across the realities as perceived by the Dick Olsons of the world?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports:
About three-quarters of Americans who use the Internet (76%) say television is their first or second main source for news about the campaign (37% cite newspapers, 20% the Internet).

Unfortunately, since most of us cannot be there in person, the only reality we know is TV. I think the Howard Dean scream is worthy of a case study.

How would you portray reality if you had these four bits of information. A relatively long TV video clip.

A report about what was happening in the room.

Here is a tape from the audience.

And finally here’s the account by Dave Winer, the well known Harvard affiliated blogger, of what happened before the famous scream.

Of course, after the fact, you can put all this together, which gives us a better picture of reality, but how can we report it better as breaking news?

3 Responses to “Different Reality than TV”

  1. Dick Olson Says:

    Reality Vs. Perception — TV doesn’t capture the room atmosphere, where a lot of communication is sensory. For example how things are said CAN communicate a very different message. John Edward’s supreme confidence and conviction with which he communicates turns words into belief “Yes” he could accomplish the impossible while reading the words — you wonder what he’s smoking? How different the impact is. Dean has a similar impact and he’s handled the aftermath of the I have a Screen Speech very well with grace and good humor. I don’t think TV captures that adequately. My new reality — Seeing is Believing; you need to process various modes of communication with perspective and a little knowledge of the views of the writter in mind.

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Dick:

    Seeing is believing, maybe, but since we all can’t be on hand at every event, or even at one event, we have to rely on outside reporting. For me, thanks to surfing the web, I have a better understanding of the reality of the Dean scream speech. But getting there takes time and effort. Some of us are willing to spend the time, but most are not.

    That same Pew report, released Jan. 11, that I mention above, says:
    “Most Americans are not familiar with the ins- and-outs of the campaign. Just a third say they have heard a lot about Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean; another 36% have heard something about it. Even fewer (16%) have heard a lot about Dean’s widely reported comment about wanting to win the votes of “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.” In fact, 59% say they have heard nothing about the controversy.”

    So we have two problems: a press that is unwilling or maybe logistically unable to tell the whole story and an American public that doesn’t seem to care one way or another.

  3. Dick Olson Says:


    You’ve done your homework. My only answer to the public not knowing or caring is to make EDUCATION priority No. 1. Second, in Exeter students in their HS years participate in presidential campaigns by working in their various offices throughout the state. In this way they become not only interested in politics and issues but actually make some interesting observations without a lot of the biases older voters have developed. Third, we need to keep BOTH parties strong so there’s a balance of power and diversity of ideas. In this way the system of checks and balances will trump extreme policies.