NBC’s Graphics Lack Clarity

Graphics can make or break a story. They can help a viewer understand a topic or leave wrong impressions. NBC has chosen to create dramatic graphics for its broadcasts. How do these graphics affect the clarity of the stories?

On March 27 NBC covered House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s secret meeting on White House grounds. The meeting occurred one day before Nunes briefed the president on communications allegedly involving intelligence agencies monitoring the Trump team. Nunes is leading a congressional investigation into Russian interference of the presidential election.

NBC News 3/27/2017

NBC News 3/27/2017

NBC News 3/27/2017

During the story, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner said “If this was a movie, you’d turn it off because you wouldn’t believe it’s believable.”

Perhaps NBC was attempting to echo the dramatic, movie-like feel of the story. During a broadcast, how do these types of images affect viewers? When are graphics needed? When are they superfluous? When are they too bold?


On March 6 NBC covered President Donald Trump’s accusations of former President Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during Trump’s presidential campaign.

“It would be a huge scandal if it happened but there’s no evidence it did,” said reporter Hallie Jackson, while showing the graphic below.

NBC 3/6/2017

NBC then mentioned other false claims Trump has made.

NBC News 3/6/2017

“Just like the president’s claim millions of people voted illegally,” said Jackson showing this graphic.

NBC News 3/6/2017

Jackson then mentioned the similarity to Trump’s claim about Obama’s birth location.

NBC News 3/6/2017

“And just like his insinuation Ted Cruz’s father was involved with John F. Kennedy’s assassination,” said Jackson.

Regarding the false claims example, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik explained the impact of not having clear visual signs on screen.

“If you watch it visually and don’t pay close attention to what [Jackson] is saying it simply [is] visually reasserting his completely false claims,” said Folkenflik. “There is no stamp over it that says ‘false,’ ‘unfounded,’ ‘untrue,’ ‘unsubstantiated,’ ‘outrageous,’ there is nothing to visually remind the viewer who may or may not be paying close attention… it’s very tough to get both the visual cues and narration at the same time and make sense of both of them.”

Folkenflik believes NBC neglected an important aspect viewers needed.

“I think NBC failed the viewers in failing to give visual reminders to people that these bold assertions being repeated on their screens were themselves reckless and unfounded and untrue,” said Folkenflik.

Here was Folkenflik’s bottom line.

“Simply repeating the claim in bold colors and fonts on a screen after saying something else was untrue or citing no evidence is not the same as reminding people that each of these things was equally irresponsible and untrue which was the point that Hallie Jackson was trying to make in a sensible way.”

Ilana Bernstein

Ilana Bernstein is a junior pursuing a double degree in broadcast journalism and theatre at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ilana has interned for Girls’ Life Magazine and has had numerous articles published online. She was featured in the magazine. Ilana is a staff reporter for The Writer’s Bloc, an online publication that focuses on arts, culture and politics. Ilana has a passion for travel and community service and has worked with inmates at a prison in Connecticut, visited Estonia and Latvia, and visited with people previously on death row in New Orleans. Ilana can be reached at: ilanab@terpmail.umd.edu

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