Saturday, August 23, 2008

When Nothing Becomes the Dominant Narrative

Extensive coverage of non-stories was a topic of discussion yesterday at my regular hangout, and one of the smartest guys I know reminded me of the pre-cyberchaser coverage of the Falklands Island War in the early 1980s.

For weeks, as the British fleet made its way toward its brief but telegenic encounter with Argentina, newspapers around the world frontpaged the presumed location of the armada in the Atlantic. There was no new story and no confirmation of anything. Most coverage centered on a Map of the Atlantic Ocean with a series of dots that crept closer to South America each day.

Every Bloody Day

Now that it’s over (for now) there will be plenty of post mortems on the Obama veep announcement. Over at Desirable Roasted Coffee, Allan Jenkins breaks down ABC’s breathless coverage of the build-up, asking a very important question about the qualifications for modern copyediting.

One of the concerns for us PR-types is whether allowing the actual announcement to play out into the weekend news cycle will prove to be a wise decision. But the announcement itself is the least important part of the narrative.

The risk, of course, was that some of the rumors and speculation would raise expectations among key constituencies. In the absence of verifiable information, the public never fails to create its own. That includes the 500 members of the public who make up the DC punditocracy. But for the past two weeks, speculation on the identity of the mystery running mate has been in the top of every national newscast, above the fold in every paper and right next to the cell-phone ad on every news Web site. Forget the text-messaging (clever, btw). The campaign already owned the week.

Sometimes nothin’ …

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