Sound bite

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In film and broadcasting, a sound bite is a very short piece of a speech taken from a longer speech or an interview in which someone with authority or the average "man on the street" says something which is considered by those who edit the speech or interview to be the most important point. It is often abbreviated with SOT. [1]

Before the actual term "sound bite" had been coined, Mark Twain described the concept as "a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense." It is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that deftly captures the essence of what the speaker is trying to say. Such key moments in dialogue (or monologue) stand out better in the audience's memory and thus become the "taste" that best represents the entire "meal" of the larger message or conversation.

As the context of what is being said is missing, the insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation and thus requires a very high degree of journalistic ethics. According to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, journalists should "make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context." [2]

Politicians of the new generation are carefully coached by their spin doctors to produce on-demand sound bites which are clear and to the point.

The term is sometimes written incorrectly (or ironically) as "sound byte".[citation needed] It is also the name of a book by Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos.


Historical sound bites

Classic examples of sound bites include Ronald Reagan's demand that "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" in reference to the increasing social pressure to remove the Berlin Wall. In this context, the well-delivered sound bite serves as a cultural icon that others are not likely to know about.

More sound bites include:

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