I hope you all enjoyed the “Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave,’ video in my last post. It’s well worth a watch.
In Part 1 of this series, I pointed out that politicians’ platforms, positions, and queries are often reported via sound bites . . . which are becoming shorter every election cycle.
Here are a few examples of the average length of quotes by public officials as broadcast on television news, as reported by the New York Times in 1992.”
- 1968 – 43 seconds
- 1972 – 25.2 seconds
- 1976 – 18.2 seconds
- 1980 – 12.2 seconds
- 1984 – 9.9 seconds
- 1988 – 8.9 seconds
Recently, the Boston Globe published an article titled, “The incredible shrinking sound bite,” in which it cited a recently published study by David M. Ryfe (an Associate Professor here at the UNR Reynold’s School of Journalism, by the way. Ahem) and Markus Kemmelmeier on just this topic. The conclusion: the sound bite had made its way back to 9 seconds by 1992 (at least at CBS).
The author of the Globe piece, Craig Fehrman, stated that shorter sound bites weren’t necessarily a bad thing:
Letting politicians ramble doesn’t necessarily produce a better or more informative political discourse.
However, he notes some drawbacks:
First, and most obviously, [voters] miss out on the variety and authenticity of hearing people speak at length, and in their own words. Short snippets seem to encourage coverage that focuses on candidates’ gaffes and catch phrases. Sometimes, it feels like we get more of the journalists than of the politicians.
Media expert Neil Postman, however, would disagree strongly with this observation. In fact he he believes that shorter sound bites not only harm political discourse and are both a symptom and a cause of an epistemological shift that has dire consequences for our democracy, our nation, and–in fact!–everything else!
To learn how how, you’ll have to read Part 3 of this series.