By Michael O’Connell

I was watching the TV show “The Good Wife” a few weeks ago and a Taiwanese animated newscast played a part in the story. The show presented a clip of an animated version of Tiger Woods’ infamous late night argument with his wife. I’m not sure if this is the same video, but this should give you an idea of how animation can be used to illustrate a story.

While a bit sensational, it does tell the story of what allegedly happened and, perhaps more importantly, it does so in an entertaining fashion.

Animation is nothing new in broadcast news, especially when it’s something that you can’t actually cover and where a video presentation would help to tell the story better. A good example is when NASA creates an animated video to explain how a spacecraft functions during a mission. It’s easier to do that than send another spacecraft to Mars just to film a second spacecraft as it lands.

The question that I have about the Tiger Woods animation is how does something like this figure into the coverage of a crime? It’s easy to forget when the video is funny that it is also presents something that may end up in court. What responsibility does the news outlet have to present something fairly? Obviously, the news outlet has to be very careful to follow the police report and not embellish the facts just for humorous effect.

Without knowing Chinese, I can only guess that the facts of the case are presented and the reporting provides responsible context for the animation. The inclusion of some video of the police officer involved helps to give some journalistic validity to the clip.

Here’s another example:

This one is much more humorous. I see this as something akin to a political cartoon, where the exaggerated aspects are so obvious that the average person can recognize the exaggeration. It also helps that it’s telling the story of two comedians.

There’s still a serious story to tell, of course, so it’s the responsibility of the news outlet to get the facts right. The combination of humor, animation and good reporting makes for a memorable presentation. I don’t think this is a substitute for a news story, just a different way to catch a reader’s eye. Hopefully, the reader will remember the facts of the story and not just the joke.