How Should Journalists Deal With Trump’s Sex Talk?

Open microphones have often left politicians and other powerful people red-faced and apologetic. But when the Washington Post published audio and video of Donald Trump explaining how he kissed and groped women pushed some newsrooms to dance around the graphic language while others took it public unedited.

Because Trump’s attitude toward women has been a central issue raised by Hillary Clinton there is a clear justification for journalists to report fully what he said, without editing his crude words. Over-the-air television reports have more concerns than cable news, online or print reporting because of the Federal Communications Commission regulation of profanity. The FCC does not regulate cable content and nobody regulates online and printed content.

The FCC’s guidelines say:

Obscene content does not have protection by the First Amendment.  For content to be ruled obscene, it must meet a three-pronged test established by the Supreme Court: It must appeal to an average person’s prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Indecent content portrays sexual or excretory organs or activities in a way that does not meet the three-prong test for obscenity.

Profane content includes “grossly offensive” language that is considered a public nuisance.

The FCC has said over the years that it is not interested in regulating news content and the key element in the obscenity definition is that the offensive language must not have any “literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” I think one could easily argue that a direct quote from one of the leading candidates for presidents has “political value.”

The Washington Post, which broke the story and included the graphic video edited the text:

“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ ”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s—, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

The Associated Press edited the quotes in a similar way. But The Guardian published the quotes without masking he profanity:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragged about attempting to “fuck” married women and kissing women without waiting for their consent, “like a magnet”, in a 2005 conversation with a television host that was caught on a live microphone.

The New York Times:

During the exchange, with the television personality Billy Bush of the program “Access Hollywood,” Mr. Trump recalls how he once pursued a married woman and “moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” expressing regret that they did not have sex. But he brags of a special status with women: Because he was “a star,” he said, he could “grab them by the pussy” whenever he wanted.

“You can do anything,” Mr. Trump says.

Mr. Trump, who was 59 at the time, went on to disparage the woman, whom he did not name, saying, “I did try and fuck her. She was married,” and, “She’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”

CNN repeatedly aired the tape that the Post uncovered without bleeps, without edits. Summarizing the video, commentators used phrases like “The P word” and “The F word” but Wolf Blitzer repeatedly warned viewers of the graphic language before rolling the video. Online, CNN reported:

During the lewd conversation captured by a microphone Trump was wearing on his lapel, Trump recounts how he tried to “fuck” an unidentified married woman before bragging that he is “automatically attracted to beautiful (women)” and just starts “kissing them.” The conversation came just months after Trump married his third and current wife, Melania.
He also said: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

By late Friday, CNN was bleeping the “F” word but allowed everything else to air.

Fox News was more reserved:

“I moved on her and I failed,” Trump says. “I’ll admit it. I did try and f— her. She was married…And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

Variety, which landed an apology from Billy Bush, also edited the most objectionable words:

In their chat, Trump talks about an attempt to seduce a woman, but not succeeding at it.

“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump said. At the time of the “Access Hollywood” taping, By then, Trump was married to current wife Melania, but it is unclear when the incident that he was describing took place.

After Trump and Bush notice Arianne Zucker, an actress on “Days of Our Lives,” Bush makes a comment about her being “hot as s—.”

Still to come, what if anything will NBC’s reaction to Billy Bush’s involvement in this incident. Bush anchors the third hour of Today. 

Leave it to the tabloids to take the story even further south.

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported Friday night that Access Hollywood had been working on a story that included the video with Trump and Billy Bush and that NBC News knew about it. But both were blindsided by The Washington Post which had been supplied the video by a confidential source.

Stelter explained, “Normally these are words we would not use on the air.” But he said when it is a candidate for the President of the United States, you have to.

Stelter also said he is told there are more tapes, but didn’t say how he knows that or who might have them.

NBC News didn’t mention any of what Stelter reported and edited all of the vulgar words with beeps:

Hot open mic moments have caught everyone from Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Joe Biden and President Obama saying things they wished had not gone public, but none of those moments, captured in a Top 10 list includes language anywhere near as graphic as Trump and none came close to suggesting sexually assaulting a woman.

7 Ways to Shoot Like an Editor

At minimum, this will improve your craft. Now this is focused toward long-form and films, but the main points apply to news. The big difference, of course is that you should not recreate action as he recommends in the “overlap” section.

Shoot Like An Editor from Caleb Pike on Vimeo.

The tips include (times indicate where on the video you will find the tip with an example)

1. Transitional Shots (00:56)

Utilizing transition shots gives the editor the ability to move from scene to scene without using harsh cuts. As Caleb points out you can find very creative ways to develop and film transition shots without the use of “artificial crossovers and fades”.

2. Slate Your Shots (01:42)

Metadata is pretty important to an editor. It not only helps you, the director, to keep everything organized on set, but it also helps the editor in post. On any film shoot you’re going to go through several takes of multiple scenes, so by slating and cataloging each slate you’ve already begun the metadata collection and organizing for your editor.

3. Overlap Your Shots (02:16)

Overlapping shots can make editing easier and its gives the editor more options to work with. To do this you want to film specific actions and tasks in several angles, and you want to be sure and film the action from beginning to end in each take. Total pro move.

4. Get It On Film (03:09)

When shooting interviews or filming a narrative sequence begin rolling before you say “action”, this way you can gather auditory information about the scene or you can ask metadata questions to your interview subjects. Such questions for your subjects would include asking their name, spelling of their name and title. Having this information in audio form can greatly help your editor when setting up interview titles and or just labeling the metadata.

5. B-Roll (03:44)

As Caleb says, “B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll. You can never have enough B-Roll….it doesn’t matter how important it is or whether you’ll actually use it. I’ve always been taught that, “It’s better to have it than not.”

6. Practice A Lot (04:12)

You can go to school for years to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, but if you don’t get out there and practice then you’ll never improve as a shooter or editor. So, use any open time you can and begin filming anything you can think of to practice shooting and editing.

7. Keep The Tone In Mind (04:31)

Know your story. Know what it’s about and the tone you want to set through the visuals. This is extremely important as the tone will most often dictate how the transitions and b-roll will work.

Mic like a Pro

The links below take you to what you need to accomplish the video’s recommendations.

Moleskin Plus

This Dr. Scholl’s product is cheap and helps create separation between costume and microphone, avoiding that muffled scratchy sound you’ve inevitably picked up before.

Vapon Topstick

For sticking the mic securely on the talent, Harrod recommends this easy-to-use pain-free adhesive.

Rycoat Overcovers

This tiny dead cat is perfect for preventing rustles and scratches from clothing. These are crucial when the talent is wearing multiple layers of clothing.

Hiding in the Hair

Working with spaghetti straps and tank tops can be a challenge. Harrod suggests trying to hide the mic on the sternum or in the cleavage. And if that doesn’t work? Try hiding the mic in the hairline!

Dress Shirts

Taping the mic on the sternum, in between the buttons of the shirt, should guarantee security and quality audio. However, if a tie is being worn, consider placing the mic in the knot of the tie instead of on the sternum.

Sew the Mic In

For narrative endeavors, never rule out extensive pre-production with your costumes. Harrod dives into the possibilities of sewing the mic into the fabric and how beneficial this strategy can be.

Helmets Galore

Though it might seem obvious, anytime a subject wears a helmet, you’ve got a clear shot for good audio. The helmet will provide a great place to attach our mic with little to no chance of being seen.

Ditching the Lav

It’s inevitable. Sometimes wardrobe and audio just aren’t going to work well together. When in doubt, get the boomout.

Consider the Camera

This might seem like the most obvious hint, but always mind the camera’s blocking and position at all times. A receiver sticking out at the bottom of the screen is never a good look.

Flying Cars-the story and how he did it

Here is a story and a tutorial that you will want to share with your colleagues/students.

Scott Jensen, a former TV photojournalist (and NPPA Photojournalist of the Year) who now shoots video for the Alaska Dispatch News captured a fairly amazing video of a very Alaska vent, flying cars on the Fourth of July. It is pure silliness as country folks run cars and vans off the side of a steep hill and watch them crash. But Scott turned this into a video epic.

Scott also produced this remarkable step-by-step tutorial on how he shot and produced the video. You are going to take a few lessons from this. First, how MUCH work Scott put into getting so many angles that it looked like he was working with a team of photojournalists.
Scott also was not afraid to sacrifice a GoPro or two to get something remarkable. And he moved around a LOT to get this story. Count the angles. He also makes use of bystander’s video for a few shots.