The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Rules of the journalistic game: the wait for the book

After a slight technical snafu, I'm back...

Scanning the Bob Woodward/Larry King chat, we get a passage nearly half way down on a conversation (interview?) Woodward had with Bush five months ago, on the Where's my weapons? question. At the end of which, Woodward says
And he finally -- I said, You know, why not just say it? And then he said, OK, true, true, true. And then he was worried I was going to run down to "The Washington Post" and write a story that would say, President says no weapons found. I told him I would not, that it would be in the context of the book. You know, it's a problem with this war...

Bush had agreed to talk for the book, and Woodward respected the agreement.

Now, the general perception that journalists tend to foster is of a Big Bad World trying to keep all sorts of information secret, and the brave, gallant journo going forth to prise the information out of them. They may grant anonymity to sources; but, however, the journo wants the information to get out.

And here we have a hack holding the good stuff back until most commercially advantageous.

In developing a model of journalistic practice, clearly this temporal dimension should not be overlooked. News is, by its very nature, time-critical. Its value affected not only by the length of time before action and report, but also by the other stories with which it is competing for space. Woe betide the pol whose minor scandal breaks on a slow news day!

Every political journalistic must hope to come across a story worthy of a book. And that is bound to affect the stuff produced day by day.

(Presumably Woodward was talking to Bush on his own time; otherwise the Post might be aggrieved not to have been given the scoop.)

In any case, the joke is on the suckers who read the Post and assume they are getting to know everything that Post hacks know.

It ain't necessarily so.

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