Sunday, December 27, 2009

The press in action

Interesting choice of a front-page visual element for the airline bombing attempt: "Reporters take part in a briefing at the arraignment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab at the hospital where he was being treated for burns." It's not self-indulgent (at least, not in the way that running a photo of your own reporters would be), but it does say some things about the public understanding of public events.

In a way, it's why people say a disaster or accident was "just like a movie." This is the part of the movie where the DA emerges to face a crowd of reporters shouting questions. Except for the parka and a few similar details, it could be right out of a studio-era crime film. It's not an iconic photo -- building in ruins, firefighter emerging from rubble with baby -- so much as an official signal of the sort of event we're seeing.

The hed strikes me as strange too -- as if it's hedging something it just declared. If there's a "plane plot" involving a character who was subdued by fellow passengers after trying to set off a bomb, it seems pretty self-evident that there are "terror ties." The kicker is the clue. I expect the hed writer is using "terror" as a synonym for "Qaida" (which would fit just fine in the main hed), and that's worth a little more caution. I don't have a problem with calling Qaida "terrorist"; what I'd like to head off is the suggestion that if it isn't Qaida, it isn't terrorism.

Several years back, the Tacoma paper explained its decision not to front a grisly Kashmir-related attack in Mumbai by contending that -- absent a link to the U.S. -- it represented a regional conflict and didn't rise to the level of "international terrorism." Today's example is nowhere near that level of blinkered exceptionalism, but it does suggest that the U.S. media still have trouble talking about terrorism.



Blogger John Cowan said...

What, was he wearing a red tie with orange polka dots?

5:28 PM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

If it didn't happen to us, it didn't happen. Or didn't count.

Why can't you understand that? [shakes head sorrowfully]

11:55 AM, December 28, 2009  
Anonymous mdeals said...

Press always is in the action.

4:14 AM, December 30, 2009  

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