Looking for Mr. Riot

One week ago, your Cable Gamer led the way in shining a spotlight on CNN’s refusal to cover the Katie Couric controversy (a deceptive edit in her gun violence documentary). Today on Reliable Sources the silence was broken, and Brian Stelter did a good segment with Elizabeth Harrington and David Zurawik:

BRIAN STELTER: Obviously, it is a point of view documentary. But David, is there any way to defend that kind of edit that was made?

DAVID ZURAWIK: Absolutely not, Brian. Really, if I vented the contempt I have for that dishonesty in the documentary format, I think I would drop over right now from a stroke. It’s outrageous. And that what you call the B.S. explanation, absolutely. That was so bad. I couldn’t believe it.

We wanted the listener to pause and think about it. Please. And the lie upon lie. Dishonest documentary makers are one of the lowest forms of life in media. There’s no defense.

Other than the inexplicable delay in broaching the subject, there’s little to criticize here. But The Cable Gamer would note that while it seems obvious to Mr. Stelter this is a “point of view” documentary, that’s not exactly how it was promoted. Epix trumpeted the film as presenting “honest, unbiased, and thoughtful commentary.” Sundance sang from the same sheet of music:

…a documentary that is scrupulously comprehensive and decidedly fair to both sides of one of the most polarizing issues that is tearing our country apart.

The Epix promo for the film further emphasized that it’s a “fair look at both sides of the gun control debate:”

Screen-Shot-2016-04-17-at-7.11.55-AM

In fact words to that effect were mouthed by Matt Lauer for Katie Couric’s appearance on Today. But if a documentary massages the facts to push a “point of view,” is it fair? Is it even properly called a “documentary?” How does it differ from propaganda?

Brian Stelter gets props for getting around to this story, but the news isn’t all good—there was still something missing from today’s Reliable Sources. Stelter has been friendly to Vox.com in the past, inviting its reporters on the air, quoting its headlines, and even finding their formulations about topics like Benghazi convincing:

STELTER: On the subject of Benghazi, I was persuaded by a piece on Vox.com this week, talking about why people do or do not buy into conspiracy theories.

But for all the free PR that site has been given by Mr. Stelter, there was no discussion today about Vox’s troublesome editor. Emmett Rensin encouraged opponents of Donald Trump to start riots, and sure enough opponents of Donald Trump rioted. Vox has placed Mr. Rensin on suspension. We looked and it seems CNN ignored this story completely—until Riot Boy was reprimanded, at which point Dylan Byers did one online report. But the comprehensive CNN transcript archives show no on-air references to Vox or their resident riot enthusiast over the past week. Another blackout.

This is strikingly similar to how CNN and Reliable Sources avoided the Couric matter. Will it take them a week to tell their viewers about Mr. Riot too?

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