Couric and her team achieved this through simple video editing. By taking footage from elsewhere in the session and splicing it after the question, they made it seem like the group was struck mute by the brilliance and moral power of the question.
The simplest way to illustrate the nature of this lie is to imagine if a print reporter had been there instead of a camera. Let’s say I’m that reporter, watching the focus group in real time from a corner of the room. Now imagine that in my account of the meeting, instead of reporting that the group answered immediately and energetically, I reported: “When Couric asked her question about background checks, a long and shamefaced collective silence fell over the whole group. Not one of these purported gun rights’ activists knew how to respond.”
There is simply no way a reasonable person can deny that would be a lie.
This incident is being cited by many on the right as a perfect example of media bias — and it is. Couric is a partisan hypocrite. She criticized the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood executives talking about selling baby parts as deceptively edited, even though the editing was tame compared to Couric’s (and the Center for Medical Progress had released the raw video of their interviews as well).
But there’s something else worth noting here. TV itself is a biased medium. In the early days of television, and before that radio, the hope was that technology could take out the middleman-journalist and provide “objective” reporting. Just place a microphone or a camera at the heart of the action, and the audience will get that “You Are There” feeling. The problem is that the camera and the microphone are very often less objective than the pen or the keyboard. Worse, electronic journalists often hide behind the facade of technology and the sensory immersion of the audience, as a way to fake immediacy and intimacy.
This is the more lasting lesson of the Couric scandal. Reality TV has conquered all. As a society, we want to be entertained far more than we want to be informed, which is why these scandals vanish the instant they become boring. It’s also why Katie Couric is more of a reality TV star than a real journalist.