July 20, 2005

Rhetoric of stale criticism….

Did President Bush bypass the media filter by announcing his pick for the Supreme Court at 9 p.m. EDT? Howard Kurtz thinks so:

By choosing to unveil his nominee at 9 p.m., Bush not only threw the media establishment into a tizzy, he also broke the news right on deadline for East Coast newspapers and after the network newscasts. He cut through “the filter,” as he calls the media, preventing — or at least delaying — journalists from researching long pieces picking apart his choice. The president also guaranteed himself a bigger audience than with a morning announcement…

I agree that one rhetorical intention of the timing was to maximize the audience–that’s good kairos. Further, the timing meant that he could take dramatic advantage of the day-long, breathless cable news speculation. And, certainly, an evening announcement strains newspaper deadlines.

But here’s what I find curious: Does Kurtz suppose that newspapers ought to write “long pieces picking apart his choice” for the following morning (assuming by “picking apart” we mean good reporting and cogent analysis)?

I don’t. Let TV handle the breaking news. Proper (complex) coverage of a Supreme Court nomination–something only print can provide–takes time.

It gets weirder: “The prime-time maneuver also neutralized the blogosphere…”


Surely, a lot of half-cocked nuts “went off” prematurely. The strength of the blogosphere, however, isn’t speed; it’s spread (different from depth). The blogosphere, similar to print (but in a different way), does its best work over time as the web of inquiry, analysis, and commentary spreads across a topic.

Howard Kurtz’ media criticism has become terribly stale. His columns read more like truncated, gothic potboilers of media drama than cogent analysis. Time for a new beat.

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