Fake News: A Video Exploration

About Me:

My name is CJ. I am a senior at Brown University studying American Studies and Modern Culture & Media and pursuing a career in video journalism. More info on me and examples of my work may be found at https://www.cjrisman.com.

The Idea:

I went into this project hoping to play with the notion of “Fake News” and how the term had grown into a political tool utilized by the new administration. I was especially interested in the idea that Trump calling something “fake news” while being broadcasted on news networks became itself a form of actually fake news. Alone, this double layer can be read as a form of distortion, and I was curious how I could use video to manipulate those moments further.

The Form:

My project was in part inspired by a VICE News video of 21 things that go “bing” according to Trump:

 

I found this piece compelling as an archive of the unique language being employed by Trump as well as a type of distortion that brought together disparate moments in one political career. The various lower thirds that accompanied each clip also produced a secondary layer of narrative and distortion that one could choose to read into or not.

I set out to follow the form with the term “fake news.”

The Process:

The biggest struggle with this project was collecting all the footage. Since I did not have broad access to news recordings, I struggled to easily find and download every instance of Trump employing the term “fake news.” My ultimate methodology ended up as the following: 1) searching the term “fake news” on https://archive.org/details/tv to find instances of “fake news” being discussed, 2) using the dates and networks found via archive.org to then search for those same media moments on youtube, and 3) downloading the videos from youtube. I also downloaded all press conferences with Trump to date since the election and used transcripts from the conferences to help pinpoint discussions of fake news within the lengthy video files.

Throughout this process, I made the decision to include other members of the Trump administration as well as to broaden the moments to all that depicted the Trump administration’s general attitude towards the press.

After cutting down all my moments, I played with their order until I felt the work was balanced and told a general “narrative” (in so much as moments that seemed to play off one another were placed together).

Finally, I added some text to the video. This served to both insert myself into the piece (thus increasing the distortion) and to draw attention to certain moments of the perhaps overstimulating work.

The Product:

The Thoughts:

The video I ended up producing differed largely in format from the “bing” video I initially set out to emulate. This was in part due to constraints in collecting video sources, but also due to my drive to draw attention to a greater issue. The Trump administration’s attitudes towards the press are inextricably tied up in their notions and employment of “fake news.” I thus felt the project more informative when the scope was broadened beyond simply concise moments including the term “fake news.”

On one hand, this project is a type of curation or archive, drawing together and documenting instances of fake “fake news” on behalf of the administration. On the other hand, the remix format of splicing together clips and addition of the text also serve to create a distortion. I too commonly associate the term “distortion” with an enlarging effect or notions of blowing something out of proportion. In labeling this project a distortion, however, I hope to not trigger those connotations. Rather the piece distorts to a point of clarity, much like satire. Here, distortion and curation work together (making me wonder if there is ever truly curation without any distortion in terms of how information is taken out of context and redelivered). Between the two, a new video work is produced. If Trump falsely claiming things to be “fake news” while on the news itself produces a fake news, hopefully this work reclaims some of that space, using that same news to then make a new, perhaps more honest, audiovisual argument.

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