Wednesday, January 12, 2011

8.5 seconds or less

The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite by Craig Fehrman The Boston Globe

"...The most measurable casualty of all this was the political quote. Hallin watched the tapes of old newscasts with a stopwatch in hand, and the differences struck him immediately. In 1968, Walter Cronkite and CBS did a segment on Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon that used five quotations from the candidates with an average length of 60 seconds. Cronkite said things like: “Humphrey was asked about the battered state of the Democratic Party” — and then let Humphrey talk about exactly that for 49 uninterrupted seconds.

Twenty years later, that sequence seemed unimaginable. Peter Jennings and ABC did a segment on Bush and Dukakis that used 10 sound bites from the candidates with an average length of 8.5 seconds. As sharp as that difference seemed in retrospect, it had happened so gradually that the industry itself hadn’t realized how much had changed. Hallin remembers that, when he first began presenting his research, people didn’t believe him until he showed some clips. “It was something that happened without anyone being aware,” Hallin says, “without anyone making a decision.”