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The Media: Obama’s Triumphant Weekend, TV vs. Twitter

The Media: Obama’s Triumphant Weekend, TV vs. Twitter

Now we know at least some of the things that must have been going through the President’s head on Saturday as he delivered his very funny monologue at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It’s easy to say “No wonder he was smiling,” but the operation against Osama Bin Laden hadn’t been completed and still could have gone horribly wrong, so his ease and confidence are even more impressive.

While we were all focused on the birth certificate circus during the last week, we couldn’t possibly have imagined that the weekend would bring a surprise and at first mysterious announcement late Sunday that the President would speak to the country. The way the news about Osama Bin Laden’s death played out said a lot about the multifarious aspects of what is too broadly called “the media.”

President Obama’s speech was perfectly written: evoking 9/11 with sympathy, taking credit for setting the operation to kill Bin Laden in motion from the earliest days of his administration, yet not gloating. That is the main news; here are a few of the more revealing media sidelights to emerge last night.

TWITTER VS. CABLE NEWS

Cable television was very cautious in reporting what they suspected and finally knew the President would say. I turned from CNN and MSNBC, still reporting only that the statement was huge and involved national security, and found Twitter exploding with the word that Bin Laden was dead. Those rumors could have been wrong, but weren’t.

Yet as the announcement grew closer and the network anchors and analysts came on, their context was far more valuable than anything on line. No well-informed person can live with one and not the other anymore, and through the night it was impossible to turn away from either.

BAD JOB, WOLF BLITZER

One definite lesson: I am through listening to Wolf Blitzer. While the reporters were still dancing around what they knew – it became increasingly obvious they knew what they couldn’t say – Blitzer made it sound as if Obama was going to announce another war or immanent attack. That’s not reporting, it’s fear-mongering.

LARA LOGAN ON CBS

Earlier in the evening, 60 Minutes showed a wrenching interview in which Logan talked about being sexually assaulted while reporting in Egypt, and in the extended web extra, she talked about wanting to go back to work, not to be defined by the attack.

Then she turned up as a commentator on the network before the President’s speech, talking about the international implications of the news. Many other analysts could have said what she did, but it was a smart way to regain her professional identity, so good for her and CBS.

SERENDIPITOUS TIMING

NBC cut into The Celebrity Apprentice to cover the President. Totally irrelevant in the serious scheme of things, but how satisfying is that?

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