Perhaps FDR could have seen this coming. When President Roosevelt was in office, he managed to do all sorts of tricks to make it appear that he was a vibrant man, rather than one suffering from a debilitating disease. His wheelchair was hidden, and evidently all sorts of secret entrances allowed him to get around without detection of just how much assistance he needed to travel about. Back then, television was just coming into play. Controlling print media was a bit easier than live news cameras.
As PBS found out this week, we are no longer living in the same world. Due to poor weather conditions, the live fireworks broadcast they promised from Washington, DC, was no longer possible. Not only was the rain an issue, but the the Capitol building is currently surrounded with scaffolding due to necessary repairs. Because the show must go on, PBS decided that simply substituting footage from the 2014 broadcast was better than nothing. This ploy might have worked during FDR’s Presidency since radio was the prevalent news source with few people relying on television. Hey, this stunt might have even worked this year except for one key word flashed continuously across the screen: “live.”
Within minutes, Twitter was abuzz. Anyone watching in the DC area immediately recognized that the broadcast could not possibly be from 2016. People were infuriated. PBS seemed to be trying to pull one over on everyone. Perhaps if they had chosen to have a scrolling announcement explaining their use of stock footage, people would have been more understanding. After all, watching rainy fireworks with a covered up Capitol is not exactly inspiring. Yet people did not like the idea of being duped.
Honesty seems to be overrated in our society. Covering up the truth seems to happen more frequently. While broadcasting the misfortunes of others often seems to happen in double time, what people really should be informed about is often hidden.
Getting information into print is easier than ever before. Numerous magazines exist on every subject imaginable. In addition, the media pool is vast. Rather than having just one primary list of reporters for three major networks, “news” sources are too numerous to count.
Online access muddles the market even more. Add to these groups a vast community of millions of bloggers who also have something to say, finding a hidden treasure chest might be easier than discovering what is actually going on in the world.
As a fairly recent contributor to this vast media world, I am not without fault. In a recent article published in a locally distributed magazine, I managed to incorrectly move Fort Sumter out of Virginia (West Virginia now) and into South Carolina. All because I did not do enough fact checking and went from memory. A reader called me on this. I responded in gratitude – that she would take the time to point out the truth. Although humble pie did not taste good going down, I know that I am not above correction. And I really do want to print the truth.
Thankfully PBS also responded in kind. Within hours of the broadcast, they admitted to using the stock footage. Perhaps they had no choice since their snafu was easy to prove. But I would like to think that instead they held themselves to a higher standard. That they valued honesty more than viewers. If only other networks and news sources will respond in the same manner. Honesty really is the best policy.
Should PBS Have Shown Old Fireworks Footage In Its July 4th Show? https://t.co/QuGb417pbs
— NPR (@NPR) July 5, 2016