Sound Bites

In past years I have been interviewed across local and national radio, TV news, various newspapers and such. These venues of modern communications are constantly searching for the one ubiquitous sound bite that will sum up a lifetime of experience or knowledge. It’s not uncommon for a twenty minute interview to be reduced to a 5 second “on camera” appearance. Believe it or not it can be difficult sometimes to arrive at that one, seminal distilled sentence. Hemingway purportedly arrived at a one sentence novel; “For sale, baby shoes – never worn.” Now that is brilliant.

The problem with sound bites is that they are targeted for an audience with the attention span of a gerbil on speed. It is somewhat frustrating to realize that whatever truth needs to emerge relative to any subject, can be edited to whatever agenda is being proffered at the time. This especially the case when an complex opinion must be rendered in a few short sentences.
Sound bites in movies have been carefully honed and crafted. A short and rather spontaneous interview disallows for thoughtful word crafting. In short, one must think on their feet. Sometimes I can get this right and sometimes it’s a bit off the mark.

Most of what I am interviewed on concerns police practices and I strive to be objective and give both sides of an argument their respective due in order to shed proper light on challenging subject. It can be hard to accomplish this as swiftly as is often necessitated by an brief TV news or newspaper interview. The world has changed dramatically and police work has changed dramatically. What is expected from law enforcement today is staggering considering the demands of complex policies and best practices, and it’s not easily explained, especially to the lay person who may be unfamiliar. This will most likely not change in the foreseeable future. Actions taken regarding the application of force by either police or civilians need to be objectively reasonable and articulable… good luck objectively explaining the application of force in a 5 second sound bite.

This is simply food for thought the next time you see or hear a short sound bite that you agree or disagree with. There may be a lot more to it than what was revealed to you.

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