Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Revisiting Bin Laden's (Imagined) Assassination

Exactly one year ago, the contemporary world was informed that after ten years of hiding, US Navy SEALs assassinated Osama bin Laden, the individual who claimed responsibility behind the 9/11 attacks. The decade-old event, which forever affected our understanding of security both domestically and internationally, also changed news production and consumption practices. As so, the continuing debate over his actual death, a mission otherwise known as Operation Neptune Spear, and the public's understanding of it was not engaged solely through news articles and press releases, but through broadcast media's incessant pitch for immersive news.

President Obama in the Situation Room, May 2011

Nonny de la Pena, yesterday's featured journalist and professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication, expanded on these practices through a history of virtuality in news dissemination and civic discourse by concentrating on her past work with virtual news stories.

Using the same software technology, Second Life, which De la Pena described, consider the following YouTube clip on bin Laden's assassination in relation to the nature of virtual news. Given the strict confidentiality prohibiting any media coverage prior and during the event, it is understandable that virtual media was an inevitable choice to attract viewers to tune in to the news. With dynamic scenes, rich audio and music, and crafted storytelling viewers were undoubtedly immersed in the environment of SEAL operation, despite the video description disclaiming, "this is not meant to portray actual events".  Since the public was censored of proof of his death, the next best thing was to recreate it.

The CBS video below more effectively illustrates the event using animated maps, infographics, archived footage, press releases, and most importantly, a simulated reenactment of the operation.

Though the simulation was constructed according to a collection of interviews between soldiers and White House officials, its accuracy can only be contested as much as its purpose as a simulation and not actual footage. The continually digitizing world increasingly demands virtual footage due to content output pressures, however its usefulness and accuracy must be negotiated between both journalists and viewers.

1 comment:

  1. This example from CBS about the Bin Laden raid relates directly to both De La Pena's work in immersive journalism and the reservations expressed by traditional reporters and infographics editors about using machinima to recreate the news. I think your point about using a number of primary sources in covering the story is particularly useful to consider.