I was going to let this one slide, but I thought, what the hell, this is what a blog is for. So perhaps some of you readers might have an answer to this query and its associated hypothesis (as yet unproven or even tested), and, if true, the related problem I have with it.
Query: Why, on New Year’s Eve, which my wife and I spent blissfully housebound with a newborn and our two other young’uns, were NONE of the news channels, not NBC, not CBS, not ABC, not even CNN or MSNBC, running the traditional “New Year’s Around the World” fare? The stuff you see every single New Year’s Eve? You know – It’s New Year’s Eve in Paris (ooh – fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower!), then New York (the ball drops!), Chicago (revelers drinking), etc? This stuff is usually shown live around the world. It was very very odd to see re-runs of Aaron Brown’s evening program on CNN, instead of live shots from world capitals. And on the networks, only ABC had a New Year’s special, and it was clearly canned and overly produced (Dick Clark, from beyond the grave), with no live shots (at least, not to us in California).
Hypothesis: It seems to me that this had to do with the heightened terror alert level. I can’t think of any other reason. Television news didn’t want to potentially broadcast an attack live to the world, and wanted terrorists to know that the opportunity to strike live on television would not exist.
Problem: If this is true, it seems to me that it’s a violation of broadcast news’ responsibility in any number of instances, but most significantly, in the news outlet’s duty to the viewer to keep them informed as to why they are or are not seeing what they are seeing. This reeks of baby steps toward collusion beteen the press and the government (don’t worry, we know what information is good for you). It disturbs me greatly to think that the entire television news corps decided, collectively or not, to abandon its long-held tradition of reporting New Year’s Eve as a live news story – and then simply not tell us they were doing so. It strikes me as doubly troubling if they did this at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, and then didn’t tell us about it.
My only possible proof of this hypothesis was a piece I saw on New Year’s Day. I forget which channel it was, but the perky reporter said “Now that New Year’s Eve went off without a hitch, we can show you some pictures from around the world….”
I’m not against the premise of this – that the network news, in times of crisis, collaborates with the government to help prevent a terrible tragedy (though I could argue this was not such an instance). I am, however, against the idea that the public is not informed about such a collaboration, and that journalistic watchdogs aren’t at least discussing the implications of same.
Did I just miss something? Did all the networks run disclaimers before I tuned in? Was there a widely publicized New Year’s Eve Media Blackout that I missed word of? Did the NYT or anyone else run a piece on this I missed? I can’t find a thing about this on Romenesko…if this were in fact true, one would think journalists would at least have a robust debate about it, right? Does this bother anyone else, or am I rambling wildly off the mark? I’m going to email my friends in network news and ask em, but I figured the blogosphere would probably have a better answer, quicker…so let me know!