Too Close To Home

I continue to be both amazed and amused at the reaction of the broader news media over the Associated Press subpoena.  I am very supportive of the rights of a free press and the value it brings.  I just wonder why these talking heads do not take a time out, think for a moment, and then speak again more rationally.  The media seems so excited that they are not hearing what they are saying.

The traditional free press story goes like this.  A newspaper prints a story quoting some named or unnamed source.  The government objects and asks for the press to identify their source.  The press refuses and then the food fight begins.  If the case gets to court, most are thrown out or end in acquittal.  In the end, the Court weighs the alleged damage against the right to publish and decides if the government is justified in its position.   Overwhelmingly the Court sides with the press.

So, what is the big deal with the AP?

Naturally it could be simply “knee jerk reaction”.  If there isn’t a dramatic rebuke, then the press reasons, the government will overstep the first Amendment again and even possibly more severely.

Another view might be that rather than an attack on the first Amendment, the AP subpoena was an attack on a 7/24 business model.  The news media has always been a “for profit” business.  Today, however, with the expansion of cable and the internet, making money presents new challenges.  Most news agencies have found that cutting on the ground reporting, especially in distant lands, and replacing with information provided by the military and other government sources can be effective in developing a story with “appeal”.

More “appeal”, more viewers.  More viewers, more advertising income.  Hmmm.

Consider the Sunday morning talk shows.  How many new faces do you see compared with the dozen or so ever present ones?  Without a doubt this arrangement is a win-win.  The news programs obtain quotable moments with trusted sources.    With attribution, any news agency can also use the quotes.  The guests, on the other hand, get TV (and maybe print) face time which polishes their egos and helps their electability.  Where is the real news value?

Its time to stop whining, prepare for a trial if charges are preferred, and get back to real reporting.

 

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