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CBS 60 Minutes Adds in Fake Engine Noise

by on April 10, 2014

As multimedia journalism is becoming the primary way people get news, the importance in making sure the story is 100% factual at all steps is growing as well. Earlier this month CBS admitted to putting in a fake engine noise on its 60 Minutes Tesla Motors special. The Tesla is an electric car so the motor does not make much noise. However, a video editor added in the noise one would normally expect the engine of a car to make into a video of the Tesla driving. This goes to show that every single person in the process needs to be informed of all the facts.

Dubbing in audio is not unusual for multimedia pieces. Sometimes the audio you got comes out bad or not right, typically you go and attempt to record new audio to put over the video. However, CBS put in audio that would not have appeared at all in their piece. It’s possible that the editor of this video was not aware that electric cars do not make the same engine noises as regular cars. This is why it is the reporters job to scrutinize every second of the video. The editor also should have notified everyone that they were adding in a noise that was not originally there, so that everyone would know to review the edit. Many people would not notice the edit at all, as it doesn’t seem out of place . That’s why the reporter needs to make sure that all footage ends up being factual.
Since multimedia pieces are rapidly growing and gaining budget, more and more people are involved with creating a single story. It is not often that it is just the reporter and the editor getting the story out there, but also a camera-man, video editor, someone running the soundboard, etc. If a reporter finds themselves working with people who are not trained journalists, it is up to them to make sure that the crew stays informed on every piece that they are doing. It is becoming more important for journalists to involve themselves with every single part of the process.
What CBS did was unethical and wrong. They did come out and admit their mistake, instead of trying to justify it. With the way some internet users scour every bit of news for any possible misinformation, journalists need to step up their game as well.


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  1. scuzzarellam permalink

    This actually reminds me of another recent controversy concerning Prince Will and Duchess Kate’s visit to New Zealand. The post focused on the traditional Maori greeting given to the future king and queen when they arrived on the island. While the coverage itself could be construed as racist, what truly pushed it over the edge was the inclusion of racist sound clips used to create humor within the post.

    I think both of these stories are evidence of poor judgment concerning journalism ethics. What I have learned from this class is that every story must be heavily criticized prior to publication to make sure that the post does not create undue backlash.

    In the case of the car post, the addition of the engine noises creates misleading information. With the CNN post, the information presented had racist undertones. Both stories created a different ethical dilemma, but led to the same conclusion. Before any post or story can be properly released the question must be, “what will critics say to this post?”

    Failing to ask this question leads to the consequences of public back lash seen above.

    Maori Post:

  2. Multimedia journalism is creating so many new problems and situations for journalists. This certainly wasn’t the first nor last time that a journalist will unfortunately make this mistake. I think the best way to avoid this mistake is to only use natural sound taken at the time of the shoot or be extremely knowledgeable of your subject. If I was covering Tesla cars I certainly wouldn’t know the difference between engine sounds, so I would only stick to things I saw, heard, or researched from credible sources. I’m careful even using music in my multimedia pieces. Too often music will lead the audience to feel something artificial, which is just as bad as the misleading engine sounds.

  3. What investigative stories are supposed to do is relay a 100 percent truthful story, and not to misrepresent the facts in anyway.

    In Frontline’s Journalistic Guidelines, one rule states: The purpose is to edit in order to compress the information and not distort factual evidence based in reality.

    That means all the natural sound captured during filming has to remain as intact as possible, adding a noise in favor of the noises recorded is intentionally misleading the audience. If the electric car is making loud sounds, not what you were expecting in the first place when shooting the event. It would be more interesting to let the audience know about it, and effect the outlook on a certain subject.

    It’s up to the journalist to portray the event in an accurate and fair manor with the truth fully intact. Sometimes it makes a more compelling story as well as educates the audience on a certain subject while conveying what you witnessed.

    Adding in an sound effect is troubling because the journalist is intentionally misleading the audience for the sake of what they think the audience wants to see. But the audience expects journalists to tell compelling stories that are grounded in reality anyway. Once a journalist substitutes the facts for the sake of entertainment, the story ends up hurting because now all they’ve succeeded in is great disinterest in the subject.

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