Posts Tagged ‘election’

In our fast-paced culture, sound bites have become a staple in news coverage on any topic. The University of California published a study on sound bites in 1992 that revealed that the average sound bite in the 1968 Presidential election had been 43 seconds long.  By the 1988 election, though, the sound bite length was a mere nine seconds.  After the study was released, CBS tried to counteract this by enacting a policy of requiring sound bites to be a minimum of 30 seconds long.  It failed.

Now we’re at the point where anything more than ten seconds is too long.  Yes, ten seconds.

Tell me, how much can you tell about someone’s stance on a subject by ten seconds or less of a sound bite?  It’s no longer a matter of the content of your entire speech, but whether you can tuck in one or two great sound bites the media can use.

In 2011, Jon Huntsman pointed out this reliance on sound bites and called it “sound-bite campaigning.”  He said, “These are easy sound bites, they get an applause line.”  But then Huntsman went on to say that none of those applause lines were dealing with the full truth of the problems America faced.Confederate Flag 3-morgue file

Shortly after the vilification of the Confederate flag started last month, I saw clips of both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee being asked what their stance was.  The two different interviewers claimed these two potential candidates were waffling about the issue because they both stated the decision should not be a federal one but a decision for that individual state.

You could see the frustration level of the two interviewers rising because their targets were not giving them the controversial sound bite they were hoping for.  This resulted in repeated restatements of the same question and baiting the candidates to change their stance and give the interviewers that juicy sound bite they could play ad nauseum.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a nation that makes our decisions, both political and social, based on isolated sound bites instead of on the full, rational facts.  We hear one good phrase and decide that’s the candidate we want to support.

And what about those who control which sound bites we hear? Can they manipulate public opinion by releasing specific sound bites?  Or what about changing the course of an election by withholding a sound bite that could hurt their candidate of choice?  Some believe CBS did just that when they withheld a sound bite of President Obama refusing to call the attack in Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after it happened.  If you recall, Romney called Obama on it and repeated what Obama had said, and Obama ridiculed him.  CBS executives held the clip that would prove Romney right, but they didn’t release it.  Did those CBS executives alter the natural course of the election?

The next time you hear a sound bite, remember how little that tells you about the entire content of the person’s speech.  Ten seconds or less is not enough to base your vote on.  Spend the time listening to the context of these speeches and do the research you need to find out the full positions of these candidates.  A ten second statement might sound like the perfect solution to a problem, but no matter how good those ten seconds are, if the idea can’t be realistically implemented, it’s worthless.

Your vote is valuable.  Don’t waste it on those who sound good for ten seconds but who have no substance or plan in the rest of their speech.