Last Thursday was a tricky day for television news, says the New York Observer. In the morning, President Bush gave a speech outlining the terrible things that could happen if the U.S. military were to leave Iraq too soon. Then, word came that Karl Rove, his top advisor, was not yet clear of the threat of indictment. Bird flu was coming. Then, at 4:30 p.m., the news broks that any day now, 19 terrorists would explode bombs in baby carriages on the New York City subway. Or–they wouldn't.
When the wire report appeared on Keith Olbermann's computer screen, the anchor got up from his desk and marched into MSNBC's newsroom asking, “How many times has this happened?” He meant “an auspicious confluence of big news stories, one distracting from another distracting from another, capped off with a late-breaking terror-threat bulletin.” He planned a segment with 16 examples. “There is a–I don't want to call it a bullshit detector,” Olbermann told the Observer. “Let's call it a too-many-coincidences detector.” Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly criticized the news media for being too trusting of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Police Department, and the FBI. On CBSNews.com's Public Eye blog, Crawford said: “The news media should be aggressive and skeptical from the outset about the possibility of manipulation in these moments. Instead, we have an environment that spooks reporters and their bosses off this trail, especially when the alerts are first announced, because they know that the politicians will attack them for being callous, or worse, treasonous.”