The New Age of News
At the end of Friday's MULLINGS I wrote this: "It may be time for major news outlets to pool coverage of events like the Tahrir Square demonstrations and attempt to gain competitive advantage, not from better video, but better analysis."
I received a significant amount of pushback for suggesting that it was all right for reporters to be arrested, set upon, beaten up, and/or have their equipment confiscated.
I didn't mean that at all. My point was, in an era of every smart phone having a video function, the 1980's exhilaration of seeing a network anchor being "on-scene" is long gone.
Katie Couric (D-CBS), Brian Williams (I-NBC), Anderson Cooper (?-CNN), and Christiane Amanpour (Christian Democrat-ABC) all bailed out of Egypt when their corporate masters decided that having them in Cairo was not adding enough news value to offset the risk of physical harm.
In fact, their being in Cairo was adding zero news value other than making the plight of western reporters the focal point of the story which was not the point of their being in Cairo in the first place.
Even having decided that the million-dollar-anchors were not helping report the story, the much of the rest of the reporting has been laughable.
On Saturday morning, I was watching CNN, The studio anchor in Atlanta was talking to an on-site reporter in Cairo. The on-site reporter said that the crowd in Tahrir Square had begun dancing and chanting but, because he was in a hidden position he couldn't tell what they were celebrating.
The studio anchor asked what they were chanting. The on-site guy said he didn't speak Arabic and didn't know.
How much more useful would it have been to have had a phone line open to someone who actually speaks the language and could have told us what was going on?
Saturday evening, the woman who was anchoring the Fox News Channel broadcast was also talking to a reporter in Cairo. At one point in the conversation she said "Well, I'm hearing ….
I yelled at the television: "You're hearing. YOU'RE hearing? You're in a studio on 6th Avenue in New York City, what the hell could you possibly be HEARING about what's going on in Cairo?"
The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices took the remote away.
Shortly before that, while we were driving back from Marietta, Ohio 45750, we got in range of WTOP radio, which is the local all-news station. They were carrying an interview between their national security reporter and some Egyptian who lives "in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area."
The Egyptian guy was talking about how the secret police had let criminals out of jail, paid them $5, and set them on the protesters.
I screamed at the radio "How can you know that? You're sitting at a Starbucks in Bethesda, Maryland!"
I also wondered aloud -- very aloud -- what kind of editor would allow that kind of report on the air without any semblance of verification or, at minimum, a warning to listeners that this was the supposition of a guy sitting at the Starbucks in Bethesda (or wherever).
The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices turned off the radio.
Speaking of news coverage, during his speech in Cairo in June, 2009, President Barack Obama said he was, in effect, re-setting America's relationship with the rest of the world. According to the Christian Science Monitor's analysis at the time: "His message? America recognizes a universal yearning for the right to self-government, but regime change in democracy's name is over."
Yet today, less than two years later, the full weight of the Obama administration is being pressed against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to push him to announce he is stepping down thus … changing the regime.
I am not making this up. According to a piece in the New York Times from this past Friday: "The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday."
Am I the only one who sees this as a fairly major departure from Obama's previously announced "I'm-Not-George-W-Bush" foreign policy?
I'm not at all certain that the new age of news coverage is working out so well.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Christian Science Monitor and the NY Times articles. Also a Mullfoto of a bumper sticker which caught my eye and an odd Catchy Caption of the Day.