Tuesday, July 18, 2006

what other stories are they sitting on?

re the WSJ's latest oddity of putting the Ghorba article on the front page, I wrote:
i don't think i noticed a single new thing in the story. curious that it's getting (front-page) attention - and none of it friendly.
and there was an interesting conversation in the comments - fp'd for you:
Don said:

The war between the (WSJ) news staff and the editorial page goes on...

lukery said...

good point. i wonder how long this piece has been sitting on the shelf...

Don said...

The real question is "what else do they have sitting on the shelf?"

lukery said...

what a lovely question that is, Don.

You've been throwing up a lot of similar questions lately. always spot-on.

Don said...

Hey, a snippet heard here, a comment read there, a neural gap closes and I ask. Can't help it, the environment here makes me ask 'dangerous' questions. ;)

It speaks volumes that SAPs are being developed with 'exposure damage control' provisions. The implication is that they know they're up to something that people are going to think (for good reason) is wrong. The policy is 'bury it but be ready when someone digs it up'...

Or perhaps when it's to be 'revealed'/'leaked' at a predetermined time. 'Limited hang-out' takes on a whole new dimension under the Bush administration.

That said, most of the time when we read stories of the latest under-the-table highjinks BushCo's been up to, it's mentioned (often very quietly) that the lead agency 'sat' on the story (for days, weeks or months) at someone's request. Risen & Lichtblau's original NSA story was 'shelved' for what, 8-9 months, because there was an election in the offing (as though a governing party's potentially illegal conduct wasn't legitimate criteria for re-election).

Thanks to hints here and there (Tice & Hoekstra, for example) we know there are other, possibly many, programs on the go. How many stories are out there , at this or that news agency, sitting on shelves, that should be in the open but for illegitimate political CYA purposes?

There are a few separate issues here. Firstly to Don's point that many of these programs have media contingency associated with them - this is not surprising (regardless of whether the programs are legal or otherwise.) I've discussed in these last few days the fact that Joe Wilson's op-ed apparently did not have the media contingency plan (or at least it wasn't rolled out), and the fact that the SWIFT program did have one, and it rolled out according to plan (although it apparently had the curious "beat up on the nyt" clause). OTOH, the Risen story apparently didn't have an inoculation plan (from memory) - or, again, it wasn't implemented.

Secondly, for those of you catching up, there was a battle going on where the odious WSJ-ed team slammed the NYT for running the SWIFT story, and in the process took a swipe at the WSJ news team. Hence the question about whether WSJ News ran the Ghorba story as a swipe at WSJ-ed (and the subsequent issue of running it on the front page). As i noted, the article contained nothing new (and it was unflattering), and the story has already been written by Laura and Larisa (and some others). The question then is whether the article was produced/rushed in response to the WSJ-Ed swipe, or whether it was already on the shelf, ready to go, just in case.

Then Don asks:
"The real question is "what else do they have sitting on the shelf?""
There are two different types of stories that might be 'on the shelf' - firstly there might be some boilerplate-ish negative ones like, say, the Ghorba one that can be rolled out at any minute, and secondly there are the stories that (any media org) might have been holding back at the request of the egadministration (for any variety of reasons) - and then the subsequent question about when those stories get printed.

By some accounts, the NYT finally published Risen's NSA story because the book was coming out - so that may have forced their hand. Separately, many have argued that the SWIFT attack on the NYT was perhaps because they have some other story (stories?) in the pipeline - which presumably the egadministration already knows about.

It's an interesting game of cat & mouse. Once you have sat on a story for a year (eg), you can publish it, or not, whenever you like. If we assume that WSJ-News took a pot-shot at WSJ-Ed with their Ghorba piece - it's not too difficult to imagine that the same dynamic might be at work between, say, the NYT and the egadministration. Will the NYT show the same 'bravery' that WSJ-News showed? Or will they be beaten into submission?

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