Monday, May 23, 2011
In journalism, a sound bite is a short clip of audio from an event that is the subject of a news report. A bite is, idiomatically, a small and digestible thing.
In politics, a sound bite is an excerpt of a speech that is used without surrounding context. Politicians intend for sound bites to give flattering portrayals of their speeches, and themselves, and are a core part of one's image in the media.
Example: "Professional speech-writers for presidents and other high public officials are careful to include specific sound bites that the media will use to highlight their speeches."
A careful reader may realize that the same phrase may be a sound bite in both the literal and the figurative senses. They're different things to different people.
Since politicians know in advance that reporters will largely reduce a speech to its sound bites, and at any rate, sound bites offer the politician's best opportunities to actually have their voices and faces broadcast on TV or radio, politicians "offer" sound bites to the media as if it is a familiar religious ritual. Understanding what a sound bite is, and the context that comes with it, is important to understanding even basic stories about journalism and politics in the English-speaking world.