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Responsibility and ratings make strange bedfellows
Reuters news service seems to have the upper hand in information gathering so far, and is being relied heavily upon by most networks. Ironically, in the normal course of doing business, many major news stations often avoid using Reuters a primary source, instead defaulting to the more reliable Associated Press reports.
The biggest dog though, is Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network and the Arab world’s most popular news service. With seemingly unlimited access to both the Taliban, and on occassion, Usama Bin Laden himself, Al-Jazeera has been the go-to source for video by every U.S. network. CNN enjoys an exclusive arrangement on all broadcast content by the Arab network, however, and to their credit, CNN has not made an issue of other networks lifting their satellite downlink for their newscasts.
Having said all this, at the end of the day, every network is (presumeably) in the business of breaking news, rather than parroting it from other sources. If all of them are drinking from the same information pool and recycling the same “experts,” what viewers are left to decide it seems, is which anchor they find more appealing to look at, rather than make their channel choice based on content.
And the networks have another problem to deal with.
While some network heads have openly criticized the White House for hamstringing their efforts to gather and broadcast information (a la Desert Storm), the government is also trusting the networks to characterize the information they do possess in a responsible manner. Those who don’t (in the government’s view), risk getting cut off.
However, networks being what they are, will dance as close to that line as they can. Unless the nets can get adequate resources on the ground, relying on wire services and government issued b-roll will have to do for now. CNN is making noise about getting an interview with Osama Bin Laden – if they manage that, many will argue they should “rat out” Osama’s location (click here for CNN’s ‘six questions to Osama). How long they and others continue offering what they remind us is “responsible” reporting, is another thing, considering the competitive nature of the game.
And just out of curiosity, isn’t “responsible” reporting what they claim to offer every day anyway?
Popular causes well intended, but not necessarily needed
Whether it’s communications giant Verizon offering $1 million to the widows’ fund, or the Leona and Harry Helmsley Trust kicking in $5 million, or, the other millions that will be generated from the sale of the popular firemen’s fund bracelets – the wives and families of these fallen usually have what most of the others do not – incredible life insurance policies.
As they should.
The idea is not to ignore the needs or tragedy that these families are enduring. Their lost love one put their life on the line every day, willingly, and without the self-centered concern for their own safety many of us carry throughout our daily lives.
They are, and were, heroes – absolute heroes.
But when it comes to those who need financial support, can their families be counted among the truly needy? Sure, this idea isn’t one that will be popular considering the romance that comes with emergency personnel losing their lives to protect the safety of total strangers – and doing it willingly. But when a widow and/or family has a million dollar life insurance policy ready to be paid out, not to mention the real possibility of a lifetime pension reward that could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps the tens of millions directed toward the 400-plus families could better help the thousands of others who didn’t have the kind of insurance death benefit that came with the job for these fallen men and women.
It’s the kind of subject no one like to talk about, let alone, report. However, it’s a real one nonetheless.
Capture Bin Laden alive and prepare for a bigger headache than we already have
Think back to Munich, Germany, 1972. Eight Arab terrorists charge the Olympic village apartments housing the Israeli team – two athletes are killed immediately, nine more are taken hostage. The terrorists demand the release of more than 200 Palestinians jailed in Israel, along with two German terrorists. Twenty four hours later, a firefight ensues at a German military airport, and everyone – the terrorists and the athletes are dead. The only thing that survived, the Israeli credo that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Welcome to your new reality, America.
That’s what the United States must consider should they capture Osama Bin Laden alive. While our government debriefs the renowned terrorist until the cows come home, and the courts contemplate what to do with him, Bin Laden’s followers will want him back – and if we’re not already convinced, their demands will come at any cost.
And don’t look for a Jimmy Carter-esque, Iranian hostage crisis double feature. Bin Laden’s mob will take American hostages, make their demands, and, kill. No coddling, no patience for and “we’ll get back to you soon,” or any attempts at extending negotiations… turn over our leader now, or bury these Americans.
Which leads us to the inevitable question: as “America’s New War” lingers on, just how willing will the American public be to embrace the idea that from now on, they’re viewed by their goverment as soldiers, and as such, a necessary expenditure in an effort to accomplish a greater good? Will our government leaders be willing to make that kind of proclamation? And, what alternative do they have?
After all, when being open to commiting suicide is a prerequisite to joining Bin Laden’s team – how upset will they be over the notion of kidnapping?
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
While a CNN spokeswoman got the unenviable job of delivering the new policy to the media (it certainly wasn’t her idea), how about the execs who came to this brilliant journalistic decision stand up and take credit for it? And one more question, this one is for Walter Issacson: If you were still running the show at Time magazine, would you go along with this?
Either way, viewers are unlikely to forget CNN’s choice to give the legal benefit of the doubt, to mass murderers.
And by the way, why was it alright for the network to describe Timothy McVeigh as a terrorist BEFORE a court of law did? Hmm…
Good one, guys… brilliant move. Keep up the good work.