Skipping church to observe the observers

Skipping church to observe the observers
Saddam is history! Thanks to ESPN.com and Jeff Jarvis’s cat, I had the chance to sit back and watch television and the Internet during the historic breaking news of the Iraqi tyrant’s capture. It was amazing and something I will always remember. The event validated several of the arguments I regularly make, and that made the event doubly interesting.

The Web was initially far superior to television, and I mean it wasn’t even close. I first learned of it on ESPN.com, where I go every morning to get caught up on the world of sports. There it was, a headline with a link to ABC’s Website. ABC’s Real Player coverage crashed (as it always does), so I moved elsewhere. On the Fox News Website, I found a complete stream of the press conference by General Sanchez, where Iraqi journalists shouted and waved their fists at the video of Saddam. That entire event WAS the news of the day, but I never saw it in its entirety later on TV. I saw the video clips from the press conference over and over and over again, but that event itself captured the moment like no other.

Jeff’s cat woke him up early, which meant he’d been blogging for 2 hours by the time I awoke. His links to Iraqi bloggers provided wonderful context. Thank you, Jeff. If you’ve not read the blogs from over there, you’ve not had complete coverage.

Over on the tube, each of the networks had their own victories to tout, but the cable networks did a better job of overall coverage. Why? (drum roll, please) The networks were obsessed with analysis and advancing the story rather than the news of the day. This is a fairly consistent habit of network news these days. Advancing a story is where competitive juices get involved in the process of news gathering, because it is here that individual judgment comes into play. But sometimes, you just need to let the story advance itself instead of steering it where you think it needs to go. Reaction is always the first advancement, but the network coverage went beyond reaction and all the way into speculating. This is where bias shows, because editors and producers were making decisions on what to feed viewers based not on the facts of the event but on predisposed social and political beliefs. “What happens next” is certainly a fair question, but it was not THE story Sunday. The real story was being played out in Iraq, where you could find the only reaction that really mattered.

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