The Frankenbite

By: Manfred Becker  

Editorial direction of documentary television is increasingly challenged in an economically insecure and market driven environment where competitive pressures determine editorial content. The Frankenbite examines how the editing of documentary television is increasingly following reality television’s dictate to entertain instead of inform, and how the ‘real’ and ‘truth’ fall victim to the demand to “tell stories.” How does that dictate force editors to compromise their ethical stands? By building an inventory of factual program editors’ experiences and opinions, based on interviews with seventy-five editors in reality and documentary television in Canada, the US, and Germany, the ethical dilemmas of editorial decisions they make, the context in which this happens, their sense of narrative coherence as a guide to storytelling, and their opinions about their responsibilities and loyalties became apparent. The central theme pivots on the premise that human beings have been attracted to story throughout recorded history. Narrative is essential to what it means to be human; an engagement in life takes the shape of a story. This understanding of human interaction frames our lives as stories lived out. As the hybridization of information and entertainment (aka “fake news”) becomes more pronounced, the need for media literacy—the ability to decode the real from the dramatized—has become more urgent. My multi-disciplinary problematic includes the questioning and re-evaluation of the established genre distinctions, as the lines between non-fiction and fiction are increasingly blurred. We are in a time of change as essential as the transition from oral to written storytelling.

Ethics television truth story media-literacy
Media Literacies
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Manfred Becker

Graduate Program Director, Assistant Professor, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, York University, Canada