On Friday, January 17, President Obama unveiled the rough outlines of his plan to modify but maintain the National Security Administration's ability to collect telephony metadata from American civilians. For its part on the front page the following morning, The Washington Post exulted that "Obama moves to rein in surveillance" as he "[o]rders limits on phone data." Another front-pager sought to flesh out "A candidate's promises vs. a president's duty," essentially justifying the president's departure from his pre-presidential rhetoric about civil liberties. [see screen capture below page break]
Fast forward to January 23 and scathing report by the congressionally-sanctioned Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, wherein the PCLOB attacked as unconstitutional, illegal, and ineffectual the spying agencies metadata collection program. Post editors opted to place Ellen Nakashima's story on the matter on page A2, pitched in such a way as to practically beg the reader not to dive in. "Obama disagrees with report on NSA," noted the headline, with the subhead adding, "Phone-collection program is legal, administration says." Well, there we have it. Nothing to see here. By contrast, Post editors opted to rake the Bush/Cheney administration over the coals with a front-pager examining "A CIA prison''s secret history in Poland." Staff writer Adam Goldman looked at a CIA "black site" in Poland that was, according to the subheader, "shrouded in mystery, though it cast a long shadow":
In a move which appears conveniently timed to coincide with a wave of other arguably more damaging bad news for the administration, the Associated Press has reported that the Department of Justice informed the wire service on Friday that it had secretly obtained two months of reporters' and editors' telephone records.
In the words of AP's Mark Sherman, in coverage late this afternoon, "the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012." Sherman also notes that "more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters," and that those records "were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year" (i.e., after Obama was safely re-elected). More from Sherman's report, a comment from yours truly, and several comments by others who have read AP's coverage follow the jump (bolds are mine):
Old media is nothing, if not oblivious to its consistently declining popularity among the public at large. This tired, but time-tested pattern of misplacing causes of failure was borne out once again via the recent musings of none other than the soon-to-be-former CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric.
In a Q & A published Monday in the New York Times, interviewer Adam Goldman questioned Couric about why the show she has hosted since September 2006 remains in third place, despite effusive initial plaudits and wall-to-wall marketing. Couric replied (emphasis mine):
I believe we were in third place for 13 years before I got here, and I think habits, particularly with an evening news broadcast, move at a glacial pace. And I think that local news stations have something to do with it.