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Monday, December 17, 2007

If the LA Times is going to criticize reality television writers and producers, it should at least know the correct definition of "frankenbite"

Scott Collins has a piece in today’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section about the Writers Guild Strike and reality show writers and is in danger of creating a misleading factoid as he unfortunately gives the wrong definition for a production term that’s central to his thesis and occasionally "snarky" condemnation of the professionals who write and produce popular reality television shows:

…” Many of these programs are ‘written’ in the editing room by ‘story producers’ who string together hours of footage into some sort of recognizable narrative, frequently with little regard for, um, reality. Supposedly spontaneous events are staged or restaged, chronologies adjusted. Editors routinely use ‘frankenbites,’ out-of-context quotes that illustrate points the speakers never intended to make…

“…Don't count on the guild negotiators going to the mat for folks who frankenbite.”


Frankenbite. Collins and his editors got the definition of “Frankenbite” wrong.

A Frankenbite is not an out-of-context quote. It’s a line of audio that is cobbled, stitched and patched together with words and phrases from different unrelated sentences. Just as Frankenstein was assembled from parts of different bodies.

Like this:

“The newspaper (edit) needs to (edit) make a (edit) correction (edit) before its mistake (edit) spreads and (edit) be (edit) comes (edit) a factoid.”

While “out-of-context quotes that illustrate points the speakers never intended to make” are simply dishonest, the Frankenbite is an acceptable tool-- and its use is not restricted to those big bad “reality” shows. Frankenbites have been used for years in newsmagazines, news reports, documentaries, TV specials-- anywhere a producer, editor and an interview subject who couldn’t make a concise point can be found.

The LA Times fact checker could have Googled “frankenbite” to find entries like Kevin Arnovitz’s Virtual Dictionary at Slate:

Frankenbite (n): An edited reality show snippet, most often found in contestant testimonials, that splices together several disparate strands of an interview, or even multiple interviews, into a single clip.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

With that I think we can safely label the entire business of network TV journalism, from begininng to end - especially including the talent - as "Frankennews"

fishbowl la said...

Scott Collins Unreal on Reality TV

Tabloid Baby schools clueless LAT columnist Scott Collins in the true meaning of reality TV buzzword Frankenbite. Collins wrote:

Editors routinely use "frankenbites," out-of-context quotes that illustrate points the speakers never intended to make...

Collins is just plain wrong, as TB explains:

A Frankenbite is not an out-of-context quote. It's a line of audio that is cobbled, stitched and patched together with words and phrases from different unrelated sentences. Just as Frankenstein was assembled from parts of different bodies.

There's plenty of other misinformation about reality TV and writers, as well. Collins quotes a blithely uninformed Paul Haggis about reality TV workers, who make a "few hundred dollars a week", which isn't accurate. The WGA might not like to think about the members who toil in reality, but there's not enough work on scripted shows to go around. Where does Collins think HGTV, Food Network and Discovery get their programming?