As a public speaker and writer, I know the frustration of being misunderstood. This column is not long enough for me to list examples over the many years of my public speaking gaffes. Nor is the space long enough to chronicle the number of times those to whom I have been speaking misunderstood what I said.
With the current efforts by the press and those with certain agendas to expose any and every little mistake or misspoken word a public figure makes, it is possible to create a sound bite which is opposite of what the speaker said when taken out of context. With cell phone cameras and open microphones everywhere, the temptation is even greater.
The unfortunate truth is, with the availability of cell phone cameras and Internet access, a speech can be posted for the world to see and hear before a person has completed it. Instant access by all the media outlets, and citizen activists making sure they expose what they perceive as corruption, it is possible to turn a phrase into a major news event based on a misunderstanding.
It is true many times people hear exactly what they want to hear, or they impose their preconceived idea on top of words uttered by a public speaker. In many years of attending political events, I have later watched a news report of the event only to discover the main point of the event had been turned around to fit the preplanned media coverage.
Being an observer of news, we often hear the anchor of a news show announce, “Breaking News,” only to discover the news is old and the words are used just to attract the attention of the listener. After so many times hearing “Alert,” or “Breaking News,” I confess, I stop listening. We are sometimes also told that following the next break for a commercial there will be “Breaking News,” My thought is, “If it is breaking news tell me now!”
I have listened to several hundred speeches in the nine years I have been observing the political world from our Capitol in Atlanta. Later, as the reporting is made concerning the words of certain legislators, it is entirely different than what I had heard as I listened to the entire speech. How can that happen? Could it be the person listening is hard of hearing? Could it be the person with the camera or recorder is trying to find a mistake in wording in order to trap the speech maker with the words used in the speech?
It is hard to know the answers to those questions. One thing is certain, however, no one is perfect and we will not always agree with every word of a speaker. When the motive is to trap or make the speaker look and sound wrong, it is possible by taking portions of the speech placed out of context and the job is done. From where I stand, there should be integrity practiced when replaying the speeches of our politicians.
Follow Ray Newman on Twitter @RayNewmanSr