The importance of verification and the consequences of manipulation

Manipulating the public is not allowed in journalism, according to a visiting professor from Romania.

“For the public, it is quite difficult to differentiate [real news stories]. In this time, news stories are more sensational,” said Brînduşa Armanca, Ph.D.

Armanca was a visiting guest lecturer in various UT College of Communication and Information classes. She discussed various journalism issues. In Edward Caudill’s, Ph.D., course, Advance Reporting Across Media, she discussed media manipulation to sway public opinion.

She showed a video on media ethics featuring two case studies from Hungary and Romania. The first case study focused on three students from Budapest, Hungary. They created a fake story to test if the media verifies their information before publication.

The piece was on the discovery of a Hungarian tribe discovered in Africa. The students created a website and filmed fake interviews too. Armanca said Bloomberg News aired the story without verification. About 28 media outlets, i.e. radio, newspaper, broadcast and online, published the story. She said an exception was, an online news agency in Hungary.

“Just one was a little bit suspicious. The first [reason], why was there no institutional phone number? Why only a Hungarian mobile phone [number],” Armanca said.

The case study from Romania was on a reporter who manipulated his footage to create the appearance of a sandstorm by kicking up sand. Other footage included a woman fake fainting to show that the government was not taking care of the elderly.

In the last part of the news video, a vendor bought two tomatoes. When confronted by another cameraman, the vendor said the reporters asked her to buy the tomatoes for their story on poverty in Romania. The vendor was an actress who was not impoverished.

Armanca said journalists should find away to handle the 24/7-news cycle, especially for broadcast and online. Journalists need to create news stories to keep public interest but report facts.

“People need news stories. People need sensational stories.”

Armanca received her degree from the University of Bucharest-Romania. Since 2005, she has taught journalism at Aurel Vlaicu State University of Arad. She trained at Radio Free Europe in Munich and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Ulster, Northern Ireland. From 2006 to 2012, Armanca was the director of the Romanian Cultural Institute in Budapest (2006-2012).

Here are some examples of the Hungarian African tribe story:


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