Though she has taken “responsibility” for the “dramatic effect” in her documentary on the gun debate, Katie Couric has not received a pass from the pro-gun organization she admittedly misrepresented.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) slammed the news anchor for once again “selectively” editing the group’s response to her questioning in the documentary, called, “Under the Gun.”
We’ll get to the latest details in a moment, but let’s back up and examine Couric’s apology for making VCDL members look speechless following a question she asked them on the ability of convicted felons and those on the terror watch list to legally obtain a gun.
“As Executive Producer of ‘Under the Gun,’ a documentary film that explores the epidemic of gun violence, I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange…” said Couric in a statement. “When I screened an early version of the film with the director, Stephanie Soechtig, I questioned her and the editor about the pause and was told that a ‘beat’ was added for, as she described it, ‘dramatic effect,’ to give the audience a moment to consider the question.”
To recap, she and a producer deliberately added 8 seconds to the doc between the end of Couric’s question and the beginning of the VCDL member’s response, making it seem that the VCDL members were stunned or caught off guard or didn’t know how to answer the question — which certainly wasn’t the case.
“When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response,” she continued.
VCDL called her out for that, and Couric had no choice but to own it. Well, sort of. An honest reading of her apology would suggest that she blames the director for the pause even though she signed off on it.
To state the obvious, as a seasoned “journalist” with executive producer power over the editing process of the doc, Couric should have immediately demanded that filmmakers remove the pause. But she didn’t. Why? Hmmm. Maybe one has to start at the beginning and ask, did Couric really set out to make an honest film about guns in America?
You, the reader, can draw your own conclusions.
Now, to get to the latest details. The VCDL is still not happy with Couric. Because below her written apology she included an edited transcript that cuts out much of what the members said during the exchange.
“On the obscure web page where Katie buries her apology, there is a transcript of the response VCDL’s members gave to katie’s question,” notes the VCDL. “The problem is that the transcript stops only about one-quarter of the way into the response, clipping off the most relevant parts of the answer!”
To be fair, editing or shortening one’s response to a question is a common practice in journalism — written, film and otherwise. In fact, this article is itself a compilation of shortened quotes from all the parties involved. That’s how it works. Readers, viewers, listeners don’t have the time to hear everything that is said. If journalists didn’t edit responses, a 500-word story would be a 5,000-word story, a 1.5-hour documentary would be a 10-hour documentary. So, yes, things have to be cut out.
But the question is whether what’s being omitted — or what’s being added — unfairly characterizes or misrepresents the speaker. Hands down the addition of the dramatic pause misrepresented VCDL. The edited transcript Couric includes at the bottom of her apology, well, that’s a tougher call to make. It might be that it fairly — albeit incompletely — represented the VCDL’s position on the matter.
While the gripe about the transcript might be untenable, the VCDL does make another cogent complaint. As it said, “If you ignore the twisting of gun-owner’s words by taking a comment out of context, KATIE STILL DOES NOT SAY SHE WILL FIX THE FILM!”
“Instead somebody watching the film on cable will have no idea that there is an ‘apology’ buried on the film’s website for the unethical liberties Katie took with the VCDL members’ responses. Unless the actual responses are put back in the footage where she replaced them with silence, years from now, long after the so-called apology website is gone, this gun-control manifesto will be considered the correct version of events,” said the VCDL.
Katie needs to fix the film. The VCDL is right about that. An apology isn’t enough. A new version — one without the pause — needs to be released if Couric wants to right this wrong. Even then, it may be a case of too little too late (plus, who knows what other errors and misrepresentations the film contains. Remember, where there is smoke, there is usually fire).