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Sound Bites

Tim P. Vos


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A sound bite is a portion of recorded human speech that is presented as part of a broadcast news report. Referred to by a variety of names, including actuality, sound clip, and sound-on-tape, the sound bite is characteristically the distillation of a person's message, usually in one or two well-turned phrases or sentences. The overwhelming body of research on sound bites has focused on their brevity and subsequent effect on political discourse. Modest attempts are being made to expand the research agenda on sound bites to include issues of journalistic mediation and effects on learning information. Most of the research on sound bites has examined their characteristics and use in television news reports of US national election campaigns (→  Television News ; Political News ). Content analyses ( Hallin 1992 ; Lowry & Shidler 1998 ) have produced a consistent description: while the average sound bite in national campaigns was nearly 43 seconds in 1968, by 1988 the length had shrunk to under 10 seconds. As a comparison, a similar content analysis in Germany showed that candidates' sound bites on German television news average around 20 seconds ( Donsbach & Jandura 2003 ). Broadcast practitioners took note of the findings, leading some networks to announce policies in 1992 for longer sound bites. Nevertheless, average sound bites have remained under 10 seconds. The brevity ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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