Monday, July 17, 2006

Press inoculation

* further to my earlier questions about why the egadministration didn't try to deflate Joe Wilson's op-ed before it went to print, this from Harpers (re SWIFT spying):
According to the (WSJ) Journal, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller tried to get the story right, delaying publication by a day to let Treasury officials return from overseas to correct with newly declassified information the “30 percent” of the story that the Times allegedly had wrong.

Having duly corrected the Times, says the Journal, the Treasury officials then “contacted Journal reporter Glenn Simpson to offer him the same declassified information . . . common practice in Washington [when] a story . . . is going to become public anyway. . . . Our guess is that Treasury also felt Mr. Simpson would write a straighter story than [T]he Times, which was pushing a violation-of-privacy angle; on our reading of the two June 23 stories, he did.”

What childish nonsense. Anyone who has spent five minutes in the news business knows the drill:

A public official learns that an embarrassing story is about to break. The official or his subordinate tries to blunt the impact of the incipient scoop by giving some of the information to a competing news organization, preferably one that's friendlier to the official. Even if the competitor isn't that friendly, the official's dropping the information on that newspaper's reporter at the last minute forces the competitor to rush into print with a version more favorable to the official, if only because the reporter (in this case, Glenn Simpson) has had less time than his rivals (the Times's Eric Lichtblau and James Risen) to flesh out the story and find critical reaction.

Meanwhile, the original version of the story, no longer exclusive, has lost some of its glamour.

“Straighter story” really means a story that is better for the Bush administration—which was evidently very worried about the “privacy angle.” And, in fact, the Journal's version of the story cites not a single critic of the secret Treasury spying program.

It does, however, feature lengthy quotes from Treasury Secretary John Snow and his counter-terrorism chief, Stuart Levey, on just how scrupulous the government has been in respecting the privacy of non-terrorists.... I couldn't have written it better in a press release.
that's how it is supposed to work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that is all