What Should Legislative Cams and Mics Pick Up?
So a California legislator felled himself with loose words around an open mic.
But did the mic have to be on?
Some legislative production units would have had the mic off. Television Montana, for example, (see here and in the August 2009 issue of Government Video), covers its statehouse gavel-to-gavel—meaning it starts when the chair opens the hearing and ends when he or she gavels it closed.
C-SPAN, on the other hand, seems to include a bit of pre- and post-event chatter around hearings.
What’s the best way to do it? Should the public get to hear what’s said in the public’s legislatures, or should hearing participants be granted a minimum of personal space when the hearing isn’t happening? Are there some other juicy tidbits picked up over the years that have embarrassed politicians or titillated political junkies?
Last edited by stalwani; 09-11-2009 at 11:16 AM.
Media should cover the governemnt responsibly. C-SPAN doesn't just leave mikes open before and after an event; they put ambient mikes in locations that are as far from the actual participants as reasonably possible so that they just pick up the "room noise". As such it's usually not possible to easily pick out what a particular person is saying. They also zoom out the camera so that you can't read someone's lips; this is also responsible.
In some cases, government officials should have known better when they spoke and assumed they were not on mike or thought they were off the record. But the media has also been willing to publish conversations that were clearly not intended to be public (Obama's jackass comment, Reagan on Rambo, President Clinton cursing out a subordinate) simply because the President was wearing a microphone in preparation for an event. This is irresponsible; what the mike picks up before and after an event is private and not public.
In earlier times, such comments would not have been published by the media. Nixon famously tried to kick out the secret service from the Oval Office before his resignation speech, commented about being afraid of being seen picking his nose on camera, and other such nonsense. In today's media, such comments would have been at the top of the page at Huffington and Drudge, and then carried by other media outlets as well. Fortunately, such irresponsible media agencies did not prevail in those days, and the responsibility to practice true journaism was taken seriously. In hindsight, those comments by Nixon show his state of mind and are useful for historians, but had that event occurred today they would have carried more attention by the 24/7 news networks than the resignation speech itself.
Last edited by HDGuru; 09-20-2009 at 10:06 AM.