"you have this whole apparatus and then, finally, you get to what's real.
What's funny about it is how puny it usually is, like a sentence or two, you know?
That's how much reality you get.
That's how much actuality you get."

Ira Glass, Simulated Worlds on the Radio

In news radio and television journalism, the actuality is the part of a news story that is a first-hand audio or video account, generally located between the story's headline and summary. Listening to drive-time news radio, you probably wouldn't consciously notice the actuality existed unless you were paying close attention - there's something about the media sandwich of reporter/live footage/reporter that's inherently fluid to people who grew up exposed to it which, I'm guessing, includes practically everybody in the western world. It's such a slick thing that you're hit with four discretely manufactured stories every minute during an airing of 1010 WINS. That's a lot of analysis-free news right there.

The terminology is interesting, and thinking about it at any length clarifies the (usually entirely transparent) layers that make up a broadcast - watching the nightly news with this in mind (purely as a pedagogic tool, of course) renders a result eerily close to that of a magic eye or, for the traditionalists, an onion - you've got on-screen supers above in-studio footage above on-the-scene reporters above civilian witness accounts, each of which lives in its own discrete pocket of media reality.

Need an example? Here's an NPR daily news summary podcast. Pedagogy or not, it's good for you:

Ac`tu*al"i*ty (#), n.; pl. Actualities (#).

The state of being actual; reality; as, the actuality of God's nature.



© Webster 1913.

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