Reality TV editing and its power explained, demonstrated

I often refer to the editing or editors in my critiques/complaintfests about reality TV, but that’s really shorthand for a lot of complicated things, from the craftspeople who literally piece together an episode in the editing bay to the people who construct storylines from hundreds of hours of material. In these processes, stories come to life–and get completely made up sometimes.

There have been exposés about editing and responses from editors about why unethical editing happens. But those discussions assume some kind of foundational knowledge.

A reader sent me this clip from a 2007 episode of a BBC Four show called Screenwipe that gives a fantastic, succinct overview of editing and its power. In it, host Charlie Brooker gives a brief overview of the evolution of editing, and how easy it is to manipulate reality just based on what you choose. While it’s not breaking news, it is a good primer.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.