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Five News bans "hackneyed tricks"
September 7, 2007 4:03 AM   Subscribe

"The end of the 'noddy shot' is a ray of hope for television". See also: more about the Five News move, and a new controversy involving BBC creative director Alan Yentob.
posted by tomcooke (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The Five news decision is a total over-reaction. Filming noddy shots, when the interviewer is actually there is fine. It saves dragging two cameras to an interview, or slowing down the pace of the interview by constantly switching shots with one camera. However, having Yentob film noddies when he wasn't even there is just a stupid careless deception. The viewer does place trust in interviewers, and they need to know who actually asked the questions to believe that the interview process has integrity.
posted by roofus at 4:11 AM on September 7, 2007


*nods encouragingly*
posted by Phanx at 4:22 AM on September 7, 2007


For me, the offense in these tricks is that they are so patronizing. Here the Newsnight editor claims that "viewers will be distracted if they can see all the joins". It seems like there's a real issue of complete contempt for the viewers that needs to be addressed in TV culture.

The Newsnight piece linked to from the article linked in this comment is amusing, at least.
posted by tomcooke at 4:28 AM on September 7, 2007


Noddies aren't a deception, they're just a lazy, over-used piece of film-making. Good for Five! Though not for the claimed reason.
posted by BobInce at 4:30 AM on September 7, 2007


Thesis: The only way to save television is to have an unimpeachable, unfakeable timer running through all video and audio to prevent any editing whatsoever.
posted by DU at 4:33 AM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why ban any of this junk? Maybe a point will be reached where TV becomes so lowest common denominator, so dumbed down, that it will sink even lower than the execs's contempt and people will turn off en masse....
posted by Acey at 4:39 AM on September 7, 2007


I remember this one from The China Syndrome.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:53 AM on September 7, 2007


Five? This five? The change will be for the better, but not enough. They'll still show a steaming pile of shite. This will just blow a few flies off it.

If he also said they will no longer run any celebrity (sports or entertainment) stories or tabloid front-page shockers (murder stories, sex scandals, kids killed/tortured/missing porn), Kermode might be saying something about eliminating manufactured news. Almost all he'd have to do is promise they'll never run any story the Sun runs. Be the anti-Sun.

And just look at their web site. Bleh. Like a school project.
Wallace And Gromit To Get Statute

Wallace and Gromit are to be honoured with a life-size statute celebrating their animated antics. [...]
Statute!
posted by pracowity at 5:08 AM on September 7, 2007


This is what we need to do to British news coverage:

Huw Edwards's hydraulic desk.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:21 AM on September 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is this something you'd have to have a British TV to understand?
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on September 7, 2007


Great. And after this, let's put an end to the tiresomely overplayed 'money shot'.
posted by Flashman at 5:26 AM on September 7, 2007


And after this, let's put an end to the tiresomely overplayed 'money shot'.

Which channel is this? I feel left out.
posted by vbfg at 5:30 AM on September 7, 2007


I don't think that's Five's fault, pracowity. Sky have the same story with the same error.
posted by edd at 5:31 AM on September 7, 2007


I was watching Imagine for a while before I realized Yentob was such a big whig in the BBC, and I was surprised how much he does do for a documentary show. I saw a doc on Live 8, and he popped up as an interviewee... just a random BBC exec making policy decisions.

And seriously, when's the last time someone actually watched a documentary on Five?
posted by smackfu at 5:43 AM on September 7, 2007


The Daily Show on Comedy Central has skewered the noddy shot and the "on location" reporter for years to varying comedic effect, but in a meta sense to call viewers' attention to the cupboard of tricks on the network news. Kudos to your Five, Britlanders, but again, not necessarily for the reasons they did it.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:45 AM on September 7, 2007


Any decision that makes television news less like television news is a good decision.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:46 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


What on earth is wrong with noddies if the interviewer is actually there? Hackneyed it may be, but it's not a 'trick' and the end result is not much different from sending two cameras. It also doesn't suppose the audience are idiots, it's a just a way to break up a talking head interview (or cut out someone walking behind the subject or something like that). You can tell that Liddle was a radio man (much as I enjoy the Today programme).
posted by patricio at 5:47 AM on September 7, 2007


Noddies are a stupid waste of screen time. i don't need to see the interviewer looking engaged. Fack thut noise.
posted by asok at 5:50 AM on September 7, 2007


I'm happy to find that "Noddy shots" don't feature a little wooden boy splurting on Policeman Plod.

Noddy shots are best left to the Daily Show.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:03 AM on September 7, 2007


Interestingly, he can't decide what he feels about TV and its executives. Compare and contrast:

"Television is often portrayed as a dynamic, fast-moving and flexible medium – certainly that is how those executive monkeys gathered at Edinburgh this weekend like to see it" (The Times, 26 August 2007)

"Nobody much likes television, especially not the people who work in it. They think it’s a cretinous medium, a sort of institutionalised con-trick, the cultural equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal — processed excrement which everybody, including the consumer, knows to be dumb and bad for you. " (The Spectator, 8 September 2007)
posted by patricio at 6:08 AM on September 7, 2007


to let the viewer know that the reporter was rapt and interested, rather than sitting there picking his nose or making obscene gestures, or not there at all...If they didn’t do the ‘noddy’ shot then it’s possible the viewers might think that the interviewee just spouted his points spontaneously...

That's not what they're there for at all. They do noddy shots to cover the edits.

Really, without the noddy shots (or other, better cutaways), you might see just how much editing goes on in the news - a LOT. And not just to manipulate what someone is saying, but to make them clearer. People talk s..l...o...w..l..y with lots of ums and ahs and boring tangents and nonsense banter, and with editing you can get their points across more quickly and much clearer (and actually make them look better in the process).

Conversely, of course, you can also make them look like an ass. Thus, The Daily Show. That show wouldn't be near as funny without the noddies.
posted by fungible at 6:08 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Occasionally you'll see shows using jump cuts instead, and that's way more distracting in my mind.
posted by smackfu at 6:17 AM on September 7, 2007


This whole "all British TV is fake" debate is getting ludicrously out of hand. It really does appear that they won't be happy until everything is done live in one continuous take. (Not to say that something that keeps Yentob off our screens is a bad thing.)

Wallace and Gromit are to be honoured with a life-size statute

Suppose for a minute Five actually mean statue, well, that isn't going to be a very big statue then.
posted by ninebelow at 6:19 AM on September 7, 2007


Fungible is correct. Noddies exist to hide edits. If you have an interviewee who says two sentences of interest ten minutes apart, what are you going to do? You can cross-fade the clips, which looks much more artificial than a noddy; or cutaway to something else, which does the same as a noddy but requires you to have a relevant image to cut away to.

Five News almost never runs interviews: it's much more the five-minute school-of-soundbite news bulletin, and heavy on the celebrity. Saying it's sworn off noddies is like Newsnight saying it'll never cover a Paris Hilton story.

And Smackfu, several BBC presenters are or were also BBC executives. David Attenborough was controller of BBC2 from 1965-1969, and director of programmes 1969-1972.
posted by Hogshead at 6:26 AM on September 7, 2007


What roofus and Fungible said. Plus, beelzbubba has forgotten Brass Eye if he/she thinks The Daily Show has anything to teach the Britlanders.
posted by Mocata at 6:44 AM on September 7, 2007


Didn't Ernie Kovacs say, "Television is called a medium because it's rarely well done"?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2007


Even NPR edits the hell out of their interviews.
posted by empath at 6:50 AM on September 7, 2007


If you have an interviewee who says two sentences of interest ten minutes apart, what are you going to do?

First off, always show the actual interview time at the bottom of the screen so interested people can see that there are 10 minutes missing between question one and question two. Don't try to hide the cut. Make it clear that there is a break in continuity.

And use the noddy time to play audio of the question while backing it up with a relevant video -- maybe the text of the question over a picture illustrating the question. Keep the interviewer out of the picture -- news readers shouldn't become stars.

And let viewers download uncut video to see for themselves how the broadcast was edited.
posted by pracowity at 6:56 AM on September 7, 2007


I hope that is satire, pracowity. Can you do newspapers next?
posted by ninebelow at 7:00 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can cross-fade the clips, which looks much more artificial than a noddy; or cutaway to something else, which does the same as a noddy but requires you to have a relevant image to cut away to.


The cross-fade also happens to be the only technique you mentioned that makes it clear to the viewer that the two statements were not made consecutively. In other words, this is the only authentic representation of an edit having taken place.

Everything else, the noddy shot, the cutaways, etc. are attempts to hide that an edit even took place. The edit is artificial. He said the two things ten minutes apart and the program is trying to present them as being said consecutively moments apart. It looks artificial? Good. Why are you trying to hide the artificiality?

Editing is necessary. Hiding the edit is not.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:01 AM on September 7, 2007


Alas, you still don't know whether it was a major or minor edit. Whether it was two statement ten minutes apart, or if it was to cover up an "um". So it doesn't really help much at all.
posted by smackfu at 7:07 AM on September 7, 2007


Alas, you still don't know whether it was a major or minor edit. Whether it was two statement ten minutes apart, or if it was to cover up an "um". So it doesn't really help much at all.
posted by smackfu at 10:07 AM on September 7


You know something was cut. The other techniques give the impression that nothing was cut at all, that it was a single continuous statement. People really don't see a problem with this?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:12 AM on September 7, 2007


I tend to assume that the viewer is not stupid when I edit. I assume that the viewer, while not really paying a lot of attention to the editing, at least realizes that the piece was edited and there's always a level of manipulation going on. That's called storytelling.

I can't tell you how many times a director might say to me (even during a montage!) "How did that guy get from one room to the next so fast?" Answer: Well.... editing! I don't think the viewer assumes movies and tv shows all take place in real time. Do you?
posted by fungible at 7:36 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, Pastabagel, if you want a clearer look at what news might look like without cutaways, try MTV. They often use all jump cuts in their interviews, I assume to make it edgy.
posted by fungible at 7:39 AM on September 7, 2007


I tend to assume that the viewer is not stupid when I edit. I assume that the viewer, while not really paying a lot of attention to the editing, at least realizes that the piece was edited and there's always a level of manipulation going on.

fungible, in movies, TV shows, and MTV, I think you can assume the viewer knows it's fake and that it was cut up.

But news interviews are different, and I do not think that people realize that they are cut up. In particular, I do not think that most viewers realize that the interview subject's statements are edited down. Unless the program interrupts the interview with some background or narration by the reporter, I think people believe the interview segments are presented as is, or they do not think about the editing.

Think of it this way. Let's say the interview subject said two things ("blah blah blah" and "yadda yadda yadda") and you edit them together with a noddy shot. If a viewer quotes what the subject said, they will quote it as a single continuous statement. They remember it as a single statement because that's what they heard.

I have a question. If you were to get a transcript of this interview, would it show:

INTERVIEW SUBJECT: blah blah blah blah. yadda yadda yadda

Or

INTERVIEW SUBJECT: blah blah blah blah....yadda yadda yadda

I am asking sincerely because I don't know the answer.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:52 AM on September 7, 2007


That's called storytelling.

For me, this is exactly the problem. Producers don't think people will watch unless the item is padded and hacked about so that it conforms to cliched narrative conventions. What we end up with is documentary pieces that are seamless, but also bland, homogeneous, and predictable, like food that's been put through a blender. This attitude that slickness has to maintained at all costs, also ultimately leads to things like the Yentob story.

In other words, honesty is more interesting.
posted by tomcooke at 7:54 AM on September 7, 2007


Wallace and Gromit are to be honoured with a life-size statute celebrating their animated antics.

What is "life-size" for animated fictional characters?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:11 AM on September 7, 2007


Well, they aren't really animated, they're clay. So there is a life-size. Probably smaller than the statue though, ironically.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on September 7, 2007


Even NPR edits the hell out of their interviews.

Shit yes they do. NPR edits the hell out of everything. They edit breathing out, half of the time, for god's sake. "Even NPR." Yeah.
posted by blacklite at 9:16 AM on September 7, 2007


::nods::
I worked in TV for many years. My favorite noddy was the way most stations promote their anchors: out in the field interviewing, writing stories in the newsroom, consulting with reporters, in the control room talking with engineers/directors....

Truth is, most of those people are prima donnas who show up right before a newscast, sit down, deliver, then go home. Many don't even pre-read the script! But that's what they are paid to do and most do it well. But that "here's our anchor out in the field and writing and reporting" promo crap used to irk me (and most others in the biz too).
posted by PhiBetaKappa at 9:29 AM on September 7, 2007


..."In other words, honesty is more interesting."
posted by tomcooke

Except your comment doesn't prove this in the least.

"Honesty" would be "more interesting" for about five chaotic, flub-filled minutes as a change from the slickness.

Then you'd be bored stupid.

I agree news presentation conventions get incredibly stale. But it's nothing much to do with the intrinsic honesty/dishonesty of the product.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:20 AM on September 7, 2007


They wrote fifteen hundred words on the fact that a BBC exec wants to use less cut-a-ways and other 'needless' shots?

Speaking of needing some editing...

I also like how they use almost every paragraph to take a dig at TV in general: idiot box, hackneyed, etc.

Classy.
posted by quin at 10:45 AM on September 7, 2007


I can't believe this thread has gone this far without mentioning "Broadcast News", where the story hinges on a "noddy".

Of course, back in the ancient days of the late 1980s, that was seen as a no-no, not a standard editing device.
posted by briank at 10:51 AM on September 7, 2007


In other words, honesty is more interesting.

I'm not sure it's so much honesty or dishonesty as it is pacing, flow and run-time.

You interview someone for 2 hours. It plays on TV for 45 seconds. Of *course* editing is going on.

Pacing on TV is critically important. Trust me, you don't want to watch unedited interviews. I'm an editor. I've edited lots and lots. Most people are terrible interview subjects and it is necessary to cut the hell out of them to make them sound coherent.

It's like saying that authors (or, say, print journalists) shouldn't be able to re-write or have print editors re-write their words. Rubbish.

Professional media of all stripes ought to make the finished product as polished as possible, and that certainly includes removing the extraneous waste product.

If you want to talk about *real* fake interviews, though, don't get me started on movie EPKs.

When a movie is released, one of the things that gets put out as part of the marketing is an EPK, an Electronic Press Kit.

On this videotape are halves of interviews. Say, Keanu Reeves answering questions about his most recent turkey.

The way they are used is then the TV show films their interviewers asking the questions and intercuts it with the pre-existing footage.

You ever seen an interview on Entertainment Tonight and your local evening news look identical except for who the interviewer is? That's because of this.

This is ubiquitous. And probably more dishonest than the kind of "noddy shots" that the writer here is writing about. But it's a kind of trivial dishonesty that TV is full of.

Hell, the interview with Keanu Reeves isn't even *news* at all, it's *PR*. Which is to say, a kind of invisible advertisement.

Plus, the news station might be owned by the same parent company as the movie studio, so it's all in-house advertising that pretends to be news.

It seems to me that the whole thing (at least in the US) is far more pervasive that what is being discussed here.

The best thing is for the audience to stop being naive and realize that every image they see on TV is bought and paid for.
posted by MythMaker at 10:56 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Even the author of this piece (I like the piece, by the way) conceded that the grim realities of tight production budgets necessitate the use of various devices...
If David Kermode is serious about getting rid of those money-saving devices which, on a low level, con the viewer, then it will require an expenditure not merely of more imagination, but more money too. Send two cameras along if you want a shot of the reporter asking a question.
I am all for it, but your local news won't pay for two cameras for a dinky little human interest story.
posted by Mister_A at 11:18 AM on September 7, 2007


What mythmaker said. Also: his comment is eponysterical.
posted by fungible at 11:39 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Honesty" would be "more interesting" for about five chaotic, flub-filled minutes as a change from the slickness.

Maybe my comment gave the impression that I am against all forms of editing; this is definitely not the case and I've seen enough home movies that the idea actually makes me shudder. What I want to see is an end to stupid contrivances that make me feel simultaneously bored and insulted.
posted by tomcooke at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2007


The worst thing editing can do is mis-represent the interview subject; this is done on a regular basis. I think the google feature that allows subjects to comment on news items about them is super-awesome and may in the future help keep reporters, editors, and producers honest.

But if you're not mis-representing someone, I have no problem with using contrivances to create a tidier, tighter narrative, although the pick-ups and reaction shots we see today are an affront to taste and decency.
posted by Mister_A at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2007


I wouldn't be surprised if this article were written 10 years ago. Or 20. WTF?

Rather lame. Sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:23 PM on September 7, 2007


There are only three options for the news and the first two are just plain stupid:

1) Don't edit - which is just ridiculous. To cover one story would take hours of TV time...

2) don't cover the edit i.e. jump cuts. I think is gimmicky and more distracting than a cutaway. A person can look like Max Headroom once you cut out all the ums etc

3) Put in cutaways - in news they will probably be:
a) archive footage
b) b-roll footage i.e. footage that has been shot for the story
c) a graphic
d) a noddy
e) the person being interviewed doing something - normally in news this is the person walking, or getting something off their shelf in an office.

All of these cutaways take time or money - note the easiest and least distracting from what the interviewee is saying is the noddy.

Those that are arguing that viewers aren't stupid and that cutaways are deceiving are contradicting themselves. Of course the cutaway is covering an edit but often it is to cut out ums, digressions and stumbles. And any smart viewer knows this.
posted by meech at 3:18 PM on September 7, 2007


I'm with meech, I think. I see the problems with what we have now but I can't imagine anything better.

Occasionally for my job I'll get interviewed for some small piece in a trade rag. When this happens, I'm having a conversation with the reporter. Yes, I'm trying to get in something quotable every now and then, but more than that, I'm trying to explain a lot of technical stuff to them simply and quickly so they can write an accurate article.

So of course, it's anyone's guess as to what gets quoted, what gets paraphrased, what gets used as background, and what gets ignored. Sometimes I come out sounding barely coherent. And sometimes I come out sounding smarter than I really am.

This is frustrating, but there's not really anything I can do about it. The journalist has to have editorial control over their work. We're now in an age where it's possible for people to have immediate access to all the sources that went into an article, and while the established players probably couldn't even dream of doing that, I imagine people will start experimenting with it sooner or later. And that'll be interesting. But even then there will be a need for edited stories, and the journalist will have to be in control.

So why is television any different? I recognize that it ends up looking more deceptive because on print there are clear demarcation points for quotes and it's obvious that the journalist has massaged the interview to suit them. It's hard for television to provide such clear guidance because it's such a visceral medium. It's supposed to provide a consistent stream of video. If it doesn't, it rightly looks bad. So why can't it be allowed to have conventions like the noddy shot to say "Hey, there was an edit here" while still looking professional?

I don't know, maybe if people edited more obviously the techniques would evolve and we'd get acclimated to it. I guess that would be ideal, or at least better. But still, now that I've thought about this way too much, I don't feel like there are any obvious winners here. It's a bunch of trade-offs.
posted by brett at 9:53 PM on September 7, 2007


What roofus and Fungible said. Plus, beelzbubba has forgotten Brass Eye if he/she thinks The Daily Show has anything to teach the Britlanders.

I did not say nor imply that The Daily Show had anything to teach the Britlanders. About anything.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2007


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