Why can’t CNN uphold journalistic integrity?
CNN’s Election Night coverage attracted 12.3 million viewers. I was one of them. Were you?
Do you remember the dialogue from their New York studio when anchor Wolf Blitzer proclaimed, “You’re a hologram!” to correspondent Jessica Yellin as she magically appeared while poll votes were counted across the country?
“You’re the first one that we’ve beamed into the CNN election center,” said Wolf.
Jessica smiled from a Chicago tent where 35 high-definition cameras tracked her movements from a 360-degree ring around her body and projected a real-time image to New York.
“It’s like I follow the tradition of Princess Leia,” she giggled, referring to the Star Wars nymph.
For a split second, I believed them.
But something seemed off.
Maybe it was the red patch on the studio floor where Jessica “stood” or that Wolf didn’t move when talking to her.
I blasted a Twitter message:
I couldn’t prove she wasn’t a hologram — but I instinctively knew something was amiss.
I felt the same chills later in the CNN broadcast when anchor Anderson Cooper interviewed rapper Will.I.Am, also “beamed” from Chicago.
Both interviews were staged events; and holographic technology was never used.
By means of explanation, Hans Jürgen Kreuzer, a Dalhousie University professor of theoretical physics and self-described hologram expert, spoke to Peter Nowak of Canada’s CBC News, saying CNN’s holograms were actually tomograms.
The CNN anchors were not really speaking to three-dimensional projected images, but rather empty space, Kreuzer said. The images were simply added to what viewers saw on their screens at home, in much the same way computer-generated special effects are added to movies.
Kreuzer said the images were tomograms, which are images that are captured from all sides, reconstructed by computers, then displayed on screen.
Holograms, on the other hand, are projected into space.
Until I read that news story (triggered from a Google Alert), I never heard of tomograms. But now that I understand the difference between holograms and tomograms, I ask CNN (and every other provider of old and new media) to respect journalistic integrity and say things for what they are.
Let me say that again: I respect that more TV viewers probably understand the definition of a ‘hologram’ than a ‘tomogram,’ but journalists must be held to a higher standard, especially when social media threatens the existence of TV, radio, and print.
I consider bloggers a segment of online journalists, held to the same rung as those offline. If I conduct my due diligence to report the facts and attribute my sources, shouldn’t folks like Wolf and Anderson do the same?
Last week, CNN Washington bureau chief David Bohrman (and the mastermind behind this new technology) spoke to Broadcasting & Cable about their Election Night virtual technology and admitted green screens would be used, effectively showing a TV viewer something that wouldn’t exist for the interviewer.
Chris Boutet, reporting for Canada’s National Post, provides a graphical follow-up to Kreuzer and Bohrman with the spin that CNN’s holograms were inaccurately labeled:
It matters not that tomographic technology is not known to the masses as much as holographic technology, but when CNN continues to use the term, “hologram,” in reports two days after the event occurred, I question why.
Jessica Yellin came close to the truth when she described her technological setup in that Chicago tent, which I later learned was co-designed by Norway-based Vizrt and Israeli-based SportVU.
How come none of the CNN journalists on Election Night nor in these subsequent reports and videos are attributing the companies who built it?
Why must I read about CNN’s fallacies from the Canadian press?
And why isn’t anyone stepping to the bat, short of the 1600+ online viewers of that CBC News story who dugg it?
Or am I off my rocker insisting holograms be called tomograms?
For the record, I did try getting an answer from CNN. I spoke to editorial manager Phil Taylor in the CNN Atlanta office and spokeswoman Edie Emery of the Washington bureau. Five hours after speaking to and emailing Edie, I haven’t heard back….so far.