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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Monday, May 24, 2004

The real art of news management

When an Administration has a fact it needs to neutralise, there are numerous ways of skinning the cat:

Neatest of all, of course, is to keep that fact secret. What one might call pre-news management. Fine - if you can manage it.

Then, if it's going to come out, one has the various means of framing the fact, to dissipate its impact: releasing it through a safe pair of hands - why do I think of Bob Novak there? - timing the release on Friday afternoon, or after an Al Qaida operation; camouflaging it with a blizzard of snow; a pre-emptive strike against those who will use the fact against the Adminsration. The usual.

Thus far, hack-work. Good enough for a West Wing script, but still AAA at best.

The real artistry comes in allowing the fact to appear in broad daylight, in the Macy's window of political journalism, the lead of the New York Times or Washington Post - and still have the fact ignored or discounted by the media generally.

Surely, you say, this is a feat of prestidigitation beyond the skills of even a David Copperfield?

Recall, though, the case of the August 6 2001 PDB (April 12), whose title caused such a wave of conniptions throughout official Washington when it was read out before the 9/11 Commission during Condoleezza Rice's testimony:
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US

Yet that title had already appeared on the front page of the Post in an article [1] by Bob Woodward on May 19 2002!

Official Washington had apparently forgotten!

How the trick was done, I'm not sure: however it was done, one has to recognise quality manipulation at work.

It's a theme here which is, as the man says, developing...

  1. The Post page doesn't say whereabouts on A1 it ran. But they wouldn't deprive Uncle Bob of the lead, now, surely?

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