Back in the old days when I worked at CBS News, the standards manual clearly prohibited the use of music in news stories unless it was captured at the scene. If we did use music, we had to show the source–video of the band playing, the car radio, whatever. These days, there’s music all over TV news stories, added from CDs and audio samplers stations buy the rights to use. Is that ethical?
News Videographer’s Angela Grant (bless her) says no. In her view (and mine), adding music puts an editorial spin on stories:
I really believe that the music is adding feelings and emotions that weren’t present in the actual story. The music is telling the viewer how to feel about the story. Since [the videographer] is the one who chose the music — He’s telling the viewer how they’re supposed to feel about the story. This is inappropriate for an objective journalist.
I’ve been fighting this battle for years to little avail. Many video editors see music as a legitimate way of adding “texture” or “pacing” to stories. They either haven’t really thought about the effect music has on the audience or they have thought about it and use music deliberately for an emotional effect. Either way, it strikes me as a violation of this clause in the NPPA Ethics Code:
Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
Music manipulates viewers’ emotions–that’s why movies have soundtracks. TV news and online news video shouldn’t emulate the movies. Adding music in post-production is a Hollywood gimmick that doesn’t belong in daily news.