Friday, September 14, 2012

Media Encouraging Hecklers?

I'd like to think this is not true but it appears NBC put a microphone on a heckler at a Mitt Romney rally and broadcast the video on Today this morning.

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When you watch the video, listen closely when they talk about the heckler. Romney's audio sounds "remote" but the words of the heckler are clear. The most likely reason is there was a mic on the heckler.

If so, this would be a terrible breach of journalistic ethics.

I welcome a response from NBC News and will gladly post it if one is received.


  1. Hi, Mike. Big fan of your weather-related coverage, but as someone who holds dissimilar political views to yours, I have to say this is a strange place to make a stand about journalistic ethics—or ethics in general. In a week where Romney and the RNC chairman have embarrassed themselves in a very public manner, this just looks like the cheapest kind of homerism. You seem like you're capable of better.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    You must be fairly new to the blog because I have called out unethical journalism on a number of occasions -- involving both "sides" -- in the nearly three year history of this blog. I would have posted exactly the same thing if someone had one it to Obama.

    I'm not taking sides in the issue covered in the story, I am pointing out what appears to be a case of the media enabling a heckler which would be a major violation of journalistic ethics.

    I would think anyone would be opposed the media abdicating its role as "honest broker."

    Thanks for the comment.


  3. Forgive my ignorance, then, Mike. I'm sure you'll understand that for a post like this to appear on a meteorological blog at such a politically charged time, I might get the wrong impression.

    Do you have any links handy for those posts? The way Obama has been treated over the last three or four years, I'm sure you've had plenty of opportunities to call out their behavior. If you've gone on the record against Rush or Fox News or James O'Keefe, could you kindly point me in that direction?

    Thanks, and keep up the fantastic coverage.

  4. Hi Jeff,

    I'm at my AccuWeather office so can't do the research now. However, I will gladly do it over the weekend. Please check back.


  5. Jeff,

    Lunch hour has arrived and I want to make a quick comment.

    If, indeed, Romney was making a fool of himself, wouldn't it have been better (for the pro-Obama side) to run clear audio of Romney doing so?

    By unfairly and unethically turning attention to the heckler it created a system where people would be sympathetic to Romney because of the unfair treatment.

    I want the media to be an "honest broker" and report what both sides have to say so the voters can make up their own minds.

    They can do clearly-labled commentary, if they wish. Otherwise, they should stopped putting their figures on the scale -- for either side.

  6. I went ahead and did the research over the lunch hour. Other examples of me calling out bad journalism just in 2012.

    On my Facebook in response to some of the anti-American and anti-Obama posts:

    And, because I can't post it as I link, I wrote the following on Facebook after watching the President's acceptance speech at the DNC, "I was very impressed with the closing prayer at the DNC tonight. Loved the enthusiastic "Amen!" from the delegates when Cardinal Dolan concluded the prayer. Great job, Democrats!"

    I disclose that I am a "Reagan Conservative" (NOT a Republican) so my readers can know where I am coming from. I try not to post partisan politics on the blog.

  7. I appreciate the time, Mike. I think you'll probably see my point, though—nothing you've posted specifically calls out slanted conservative media coverage of Obama. Maybe I'd be less bothered if there was at least one instance of you shooting down Fox News' blatantly biased, habitual distortions.

    I'm obviously not in a position to tell anyone what to do or think or say, but I feel like Meteorological Musings would be a far stronger outlet if it remained true to its name. Just my thoughts - take 'em or leave 'em.

  8. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for your feedback. I wish to reiterate there is nothing partisan in my original post. I'm highlighting journalistic malpractice and that is all.

    Other than "Fox News Sunday" (an excellent program -- by far, the best of the Sunday morning news shows), I rarely watch Fox so I don't see bias you report. Since I don't see it, I can't highlight it. I was watching "Today" in real time this morning when I saw the heckler story. I wrote the piece from home and timed it for later in the morning (I usually blog at home and spread things out through the day). It wasn't something I saw on a conservative site and reblogged.

    When I get substantial content from another site, you'll find a link or a Hat Tip.

    Please take a look at this recent posting:

    There was a genuine disagreement as to interpretation of a scientific fact as a commenter took issue with what I wrote. While I still believe I was correct, I was afraid someone who didn't see the comments might miss this important back-and-forth. So, I put a notice at the top of the posting.

    Because I wish to keep this blog to the highest standards of journalism, I never erase content but DO highlight errors. I disclose my political leanings (which is something journalists should be required to do). By doing so, readers can see my full output and decide whether I am being fair and accurate.

    Now, I'd like to ask you a question: Assuming my observation is correct, did NBC News act in accordance with journalistic ethics?


  9. Well, that's an awfully big assumption, Mike, and not one I'm inclined to agree with. I've got some experience with running broadcast audio at large events, and anyone with a long-range mic (parabolic, etc.) could have picked up that heckler from distance as soon as they heard him. Were they using long-range mics? Don't know. Another explanation? You'd be surprised how tightly you can focus on a single voice with filtering and equalization.

    Do these explain what happened? Maybe, maybe not. But each is as viable as your explanation. But then "SELECTIVE AUDIO FILTERING IMPLEMENTED BY NBC NEWS?" isn't quite as sexy a headline!

  10. Filtering and equalization do not account for the poor audio of Romney, the supposed subject (along with President Obama) of the piece. You would have heard Romney clearly as well as the heckler clearly (once he had been isolated).

    But, you did not answer my question. Assuming what I'm alleging is true, did NBC News act properly?

  11. Your assertion that Romney is the subject just isn't true, though, Mike—the reporter is talking about the heckler interrupting him, hence NBC's decision to use the clearest available audio of said heckler. That's Broadcast News 101, right? I can tell you for sure that the heckler doesn't have a mic on him, though, because there's far too much ambient noise in the clip.

    You said you didn't see this on a conservative site and reblog it ... and that's probably because it's a non-story in the first place. Which makes it even more odd to see it on a weather blog.

  12. Jeff,

    It does seem odd that you can hear the heckler so clearly. There is a potential reason why that doesn't include him being miked... Perhaps NBC had parabolic mikes to feed in crowd noise in response to Gov. Romney, perhaps? They use those at football games to get the sounds of the players hitting and patch them in with the video feeds shot on the cameras far away.

    I do wonder, though, if a heckler for the president would get the same "airtime..."


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