Ed Driscoll

Who's On First?

Like a number of other bloggers, I started using the joking “legacy media” epithet a few years ago; especially when they don’t get how asynchronous news can be these days. When Marlon Brando died in 2004, there was an incredulous piece in the journalism house organ Editor & Publisher that many in the press were angered that a small TV news show scooped them on Brando’s death:

What newspaper was first to report the unexpected death of actor Marlon Brando?

The winner, by a wide margin, appears to be the New York Post, if only in an unconfirmed manner.

In its Friday morning edition, on page 11, the Post printed a small story, with a picture of Brando from “The Godfather,” under the headline: “Brando is dead: TV report.” It cited a bulletin on the Web site of Phoenix-based KPHO-TV, of all places. The paper said police had not confirmed the death but claimed that relatives were gathering at the actor’s Los Angeles home.

As I wrote back then in response:

Given the Internet, the Blogosphere and wall-to-wall cable TV, why the condescending tone that it wasn’t AP/Reuters/UPI/NYT but a Phoenix-based TV station “of all places” that broke the story?

We saw a similar reaction a week ago, when Senator Durbin (D-IL) questioned the credentials of Paul Mirengoff, guest-blogging the Senate for Pajamas Media, as a way to stall for time and deflect Paul’s questions.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I can certainly understand not taking an advance interview request from someone–or a publication–you’ve never heard of, but once someone has a mic in your face, if what you say is of sufficient news–or if you’re sufficiently newsworthy because of your status or title, it’s going to disseminate rapidly enough. It doesn’t really matter these days whether the news begins first on Fox, CNN, the New York Times, or via a blogger living in Podunk, Arkansas with a core base of 200 readers, but who stumbles onto a great story.

Besides their pure hatred of the man, one of the reasons why the media are so outraged over the Dick Cheney hunting incident is that he gave the story first to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times rather than immediately getting on his cell phone and dialing up Helen Thomas (who was an unintentional riot today) or Dana Milbank.

As Stephen Spruiell wrote yesterday:

Cheney and his friends, the Armstrongs, went through the local press because they did not trust the White House press corps to break the news in a professional and responsible manner. After all, would you trust this man with such a sensitive story? How about this guy?

And of course, they’re even angrier that Cheney chose Fox News’ Brit Hume to be interviewed first by, rather arranging would be a shouting match of a press conference or an Oprah weep-a-thon.

It’s tough to watch your monopoly on the news end. Especially when you’ve got so much of your life and ego invested in playing who’s on first: being first was a lot easier in the days of the 1972-era media than it is today.