Democracy Soup

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Gwen Ifill Responds to BuzzFlash Complaint About an Altered PBS Transcript

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.comon Fri, 06/27/2008 – 8:10am

You might be a fan of one of our regular features: Verse-Case Scenario by Tony Peyser. But Tony is more than just a poet. And hopefully, you read his piece earlier this week concerning a transcript discrepancy on “Washington Week in Review.”

To refresh your memory, here was the original transcript from last Friday’s episode:

MS. IFILL: A couple other developments that are worth remarking even though they happened at the beginning and it now seems like a long time ago. Al Gore came out of the closet here and endorsed — we don’t know where he’s been exactly.

MR. HARWOOD: Careful.

MS. IFILL: Come on. He came out and he endorsed Barack Obama.

Peyser’s original complaint was that there were rumblings in the crowd of dismay and disapproval not reflected on the transcript.

The ultimate response by the show: instead of reflecting the audience reaction, the entire conversation was removed from the transcript. This was the response not by FOX or CNN, but PBS and “Washington Week in Review.”

But ultimately, the good news is that after complaining, the transcript was restored, sort of:

MS. IFILL: A couple other developments that are worth remarking even though they happened at the beginning and it now seems like a long time ago. Al Gore endorsed.

MS. IFILL: A couple other developments that are worth remarking even though they happened at the beginning and it now seems like a long time ago. Al Gore came out of the closet here and endorsed – we don’t know where he’s been exactly.

MR. HARWOOD: Careful.

MS. IFILL: Come on. He came out and he endorsed Barack Obama. He’s a big Democrat. He was the nominee of the party in 2000. What took him so long and does it make a difference?

This might seem like we made a mistake, and there’s a repeat of most of the first paragraph. This is EXACTLY as it runs on the transcript page, and the first paragraph that stops at “Al Gore endorsed” is what was there in the censored version. They kept the censored version, and put back in the other words. And they still didn’t put in the crowd’s reaction.

The fun part of this was that Gwen Ifill herself wrote back to Tony Peyser. She did admit the transcript should not have been changed. Ifill also seemed to think that Peyser was making more of this than there was.

The funny, or not so funny, part of that was that Tony WASN’T trying to do that at all. He didn’t attack Ifill for her usage as much as wanting an exact reflection of the incident in the transcript. And the show’s initial response was to remove the entire conversation from the record.

The cruel irony to this is the show has a video of the episode that hasn’t been doctored. Everything is there, including the audience reaction that Peyser originally thought should have been in there.

When doing a live on tape TV show, sometimes stupid things are said. If you sincerely apologize, there shouldn’t be any backlash. But while what Ifill said was inappropriate, the reaction to a simple e-mail from a TV viewer was even worse. Instead of thanking Peyser for his passion, they decided to remove the entire context, to not own up to it.

We know not to trust certain media outlets. But we always hope that PBS should be free from that pressure. This time, at least, we were let down.

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Written by democracysoup

June 27, 2008 at 8:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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