NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dishonesty in TV News

July 11, 2002

ABC News reporter John Stossel has made a name for himself by delving below the surface of stories and setting the record straight when there are distortions. On Friday's edition of "20/20," he takes on manipulation in the media and the distortions he cites may be food for thought for television viewers.

  • When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was booed by some audience members at a benefit concert last fall, the concert rebroadcast later on VH1 contained no booing sounds -- only cheers.
  • TV Guide put Oprah Winfrey on one of its covers, but gave her Ann-Margaret's body.
  • CBS aired a concert where a computer was used to make Whitney Houston look less thin.
  • On 20/20, Stossel looks into widespread reports that so-called "road rage" is on the increase -- even though there is no hard evidence it is increasing.

Stossel admits to having hyped some of his own stories in the past. But that has bothered him for years, and he is now coming clean and admitting it.

He says money and ratings are usually the causes of television's alterations of the truth, and that with so much competition, "Maybe we have to scream to be heard."

Source: Peter Johnson, Media Distortion Draws Stossel's Indignation," USA Today, July 11, 2002.

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