Scripting questions for television is not new. Neither is happy talk: how to make the news seem natural when it isn't.

CNN denies that they told a young man what question to ask during a "town hall" meeting on the network, but one conservative commentators have pulled up history stemming back since 2007. In my book Don't Believe It!, in the first chapter, I give another example from 2004 where they did ask a young college student to ask an inane question for which she got lambasted in public, before she revealed that her original -- and more serious -- question was rejected, and she then was told what silly question to ask instead.

This absolutely nothing that deviates from the usual mode of television news: from the "noddies" that interviewers tape after the interview is done to the scripted "happy talk" between anchors during a newscast, there is very little room for natural talk on a telecast. Things are edited. People are told what to say for the sake of brevity -- but also for the sake of spin. You will often notice a flow during town hall events on television -- but not so much if you attend on that isn't televised. Reality shows are scripted, talk show interviews are scripted, and so are many elements of the news.

When writing television news copy, for instance, the software times the number of seconds it takes to read a passage: so to fit everything in tightly without bumps or cringes, many times, the spontaneity is taken out in favour of prepackaged speeches. Many broadcasters have employees sign nondisclosure agreements not reveal their operations, but if you pay attention, you can figure out just how much is actually scripted in the evening news.

It is something to be aware of when you are watching a newscast as anchors fight over who gets to say how much and when. It is silly to deny that news is a highly polished and processed product, especially when the polish is more than visible.