Do You Know What a Photocopying Machine Is?

In the spirit of the History Channel, which interprets “history” as “anything that happened, might have happened, could possibly happen or is complete baloney”, the New York Times has begun a new feature called “Verbatim”:

This marks the debut of a new series, presented by Op-Docs, that transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances. Here you will find re-creations of actual events from the halls of law and government. You, our readers, can help us find material for future episodes. Have you come across court trials, depositions or government hearings that you think are surprising, bizarre or baffling — and lend themselves to performance? We especially seek original, publicly available transcripts, along with details about the source.

In this week’s episode, actors perform a scene from a lawsuit that went to the Ohio Supreme Court a few years ago. A lawyer tries to get someone from the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office to answer the question: “Do you know what a photocopying machine is?”.

Watching the video, which is 7 minutes long and actually pretty entertaining, you’ll probably form some opinions. Maybe that justifies including this brief play in the “Opinion” section of the Times. I’m not a journalism purist, but it’s definitely a sign of the times when the New York Times starts sharing videos like this.

Moving ahead, it may not be long before the Times and other newspaper sites present dramatizations of more recent, more newsworthy events, whether or not a “verbatim” transcript exists. It will all be a modern version of the old You Are There program, in which CBS News correspondents pretended to interview historical figures like Thomas Jefferson (“Just a quick question, Mr. Jefferson! When will you be finished with the Declaration?”).

Even better, the “Opinion” section will be the perfect place to present videos in which actors portray “what probably happened” yesterday in the Oval Office or at an Exxon board meeting. A left-wing columnist can present a video that shows the Koch brothers conniving with Republican politicians to destroy democracy (which actually happens all the time). A right-wing columnist can offer President Hillary Clinton plotting to implement sharia law (probably during her second term).

The future is coming and it’s going to be (fill in your own adjective)!

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