In the age of YouTube, all it takes is a simple audio or video clip to dramatically move the meter on public perception of a news story.
Written words and photographs can shape our opinion on a topic, but only to an extent. There is nothing like an organic recording, which puts us at the scene as a witness to an oh-my-gosh moment that cements our viewpoint on a major happening.
So it was with the release last week of a chilling 12-minute tape that drove home the case of the NFL versus the New Orleans Saints.
We had read the league's findings of a bounty system that lined defensive players' pockets with off-the-books bonuses for injury-inducing hits.
We had watched Roger Goodell, the commissioner, mete out punishment.
We were dismayed at the team's crass violation of sportsmanship, though some of us believed the gavel was pounded too hard with severe fines, suspensions and lost draft picks.
Then we heard on tape the revolting words of the defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, captured by a documentary filmmaker in the locker room before a play-off game last year: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early. Affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head."
And: "The little wide receiver, No 10 [Kyle Williams] ... about his concussion. We need to [expletive] put a lock on him right now."
And: "[Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver] becomes human when we [expletive] take out that outside ACL."
And: "We need to decide on how many times we can beat [the tailback] Frank Gore's head."
What we did not hear, but which the filmmaker confirmed as having transpired, was Williams rubbing his fingers together, a signal to the Saints that brutality would be compensated.
By apparent coincidence, the damning evidence reached the masses on Thursday just as several Saints perpetrators were appealing their suspensions in Goodell's office.
Talk about bad timing.
The clip, with which the NFL reportedly was unaware, not only justified the sentence but removed any wiggle room available to Goodell to moderate it, even the coach Sean Payton's, which widely was assessed as harsh.
He was banned for a season - twice as long as a higher-up, the general manager Mickey Loomis, even though both had the authority to dismantle the defensive coordinator's scheme.
With the ball back in the Saints' court - and out of the NFL courtroom - their next decision is whether to hire Bill Parcells as a stand-in coach while Payton stands in the corner for the coming campaign.
Mutual interest between the team and Parcells has given birth to accusations that New Orleans would violate the spirit of the punishment by renting the retired two-time Super Bowl winner for a season.
Goodell, some argue, should put his other foot down and not allow it.
Relax, people. Parcells would be no panacea.
He is six years removed from the sidelines. Has not won a play-off game this century.
He will be 71 on opening day in a league that had only one 60-plus coach last season. (OK, that coach, Tom Coughlin, did win the Super Bowl.)
Consider the records Parcells has in his first season with new teams: 3-12-1, 5-11, 9-7, 10-6.
Players need time to warm to his crusty, blunt personality. He builds programmes over time, not overnight.
Nor would he have the luxury of bringing in a hand-picked staff. Payton's assistants would be inherited, like them or not.
Many have admirable track records, and resentment from being passed over for the interim gig would be problematic.
If the Saints somehow bubble up in the play-offs, the instigator would be their quarterback Drew Brees, not Parcells.
One option floating about is casting Parcells more along the lines of a chief executive who delegates heavily to the assistants, deals with the media and marketing and is involved only for major decisions - a trade, a line-up switch, whether to punt or turn loose Brees on fourth down late in a game.
Such a role might be more amenable to Parcells, who has coped with coronary health setbacks. Even then, he might baulk at the opportunity.
Coaching would restart the clock for his eligibility for the Hall of Fame, pushing it back five years.
Another concern is the Parcells-Payton relationship variously has been characterised as mentor-pupil and friend-friend.
The conditions laid down by Goodell apparently forbid involvement by Payton this season. That would put any conversation or email exchange with Parcells under scrutiny.
With Parcells, the Saints should proceed with extreme caution.
And, should they decide he is their man, they should vet him further by checking for any damaging videos on YouTube. These days, you never know.
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