Thursday, March 1, 2012

Imagine — NDTV does not know the difference between "byte" and "bite"

For ten years I have been telling my students at Commits that a "quote" on television is referred to as a "sound bite" or "bite". But I have noticed many journalists both print and television — writing it as "byte".

A few months ago I sent an email about "bite vs bite" to CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and he replied, "It should be sound bite. But you are right, several of us, myself included, use sound byte. Am not sure why."

Now here's a dictionary definition of sound bite: 

a brief, striking remark or statement excerpted from an audiotape or videotape for insertion in a broadcast news story.

And this is what byte means:

noun Computers 
1. adjacent bits, usually eight, processed by a computer as a unit. 
2. the combination of bits used to represent a particular letter, number, or special character.

So how did NDTV air this graphic today with "BYTE of the DAY" leaping out at you from the screen?


I am indebted to Commitscion Dipankar Paul (Class of 2009) for sending me this image via e-mail with the subject line: "What do you think of this?"

Subsequently I wrote to the NDTV bureau chief in Bangalore, Darius Taraporvala; the news editor of CNN-IBN in New Delhi, Dipika Kaura; and also Imran Qureshi, the Bangalore bureau chief of Aaj Tak and Headlines Today to ask about the house style rule on byte vs bite.

Here is the relevant sentence from Taraporvala's e-mail to me:

To me 'byte' is computer terminology, and 'soundbite' refers to the reactions we get in the field.

This is what Kaura had to say in her e-mail:

Should be bite that’s how the Oxford dictionary defines it. But it's more a matter of nomenclature. We’ve shifted to SOT Sound on Tape. That at least is clearly defined.

Imran Qureshi also wrote to say that it should be "bite" and not "byte".

Byte is the language of computers.

I'm glad that's been sorted out. But has it? Watch television news closely and let me know.