Clark Hoyt’s New York Times public editor column on Monday, “Telling the Brutal Truth,” brings the ongoing “debate” over whether waterboarding is torture to brave new heights of absurdity.
While cable news dutifully devotes nonstop coverage to the latest random criminal cases — kidnappings, shootouts, murderous love triangles, car chases — it’s telling when a supposed break in one of the biggest manhunts in FBI history, for a terrorist who murdered and poisoned multiple American citizens with anthrax, takes a backseat to nearly every other story. That is, if it’s mentioned at all.
Even as details, leaks and a burgeoning list of questions bubbled to the surface last week, demanding serious scrutiny, the big three broadcast networks were equally blasÃ©. Some nights skipping mention of the unfolding story altogether, as did last Tuesday’s editions of CBS Evening News and ABC World News (though both that evening reported the eminently newsworthy story of a thrill-seeking English couple who married while being strapped outside separate airplanes). On the same night, Brian Williams afforded 39 precious seconds to the anthrax investigation on NBC Nightly News.