Periscope Depth

hallucinating, chasing, changing, racing

Every now and then, the media juggernaut wrings its hands in the fear that the media juggernaut will go bankrupt. Newspapers are closing up. Nobody watches the news. This year’s biggest stories in Afghanistan have been broken by a non-profit website and the magazine that panned “Layla.”*

But, as IOZ reminded me just yesterday, mainstream media will never go out of business. When the news cycle gets slow – as it always is when you need to fill 24 hours of programming a day – all you need to do is interview each other.

the principle American organ for reporting on a cache of tens of thousands of leaked, formerly secret documents makes the principle line of inquiry the potential effect that the reporting of said documents by such paper will have on the public, as speculated upon by government officials, and how this will in turn affect the actions of these same, speculative officials. In other words, the newspaper asked the government how it would be affected by the way it imagined the public might react to information that the newspaper itself is about to report. (Take a note, [Chris] Nolan.)

I guess it would be simpler to report the information contained in the document, observe the resultant public reaction and the subsequent government response, and then report on what you’ve observed, but it wouldn’t be nearly so much fun.

And he’s not exaggerating. Tell me you haven’t turned on the TV in the gym and heard the following:

“Tonight! Public reaction to leaked documents diverges from White House predictions of public reaction to leaked documents, according to our recent poll of Washington, D.C. journalists! Could this affect the Democrats in the midterm elections? Markos Moulitsas and Andrew Breitbart join us live in the studio; plus, your e-mail and comments.”

Really, the only shocking thing is that it’s taken as long as it has for cable news to get this vapid. The Chicago Manual of Style template for professional journalism tells everything you’d want to know – who, what, when, where, why, how; witness reactions; the history behind the event – in four or five grafs. How long would that take to read on the air – two minutes? Five? There simply aren’t twenty-four hours of interesting news in a day.

* They have since recanted their error, a skill Tom Friedman could learn.