Update 2: The AP reports that the Florida minister, Rev. Terry Jones, has apparently suspended plans to burn the Koran "if he meets with the imam in New York" on Saturday. "It wasn't clear if he meant the burning would be
halted indefinitely or just for Saturday," the report notes.
"I ask you: If a sad little man burns some Qurans in the woods, and the media aren't there to film it, is it news?" implores an exasperated Mike Thomas in an Orlando Sentinel column. That question neatly captures a debate within America's largest news organizations about covering a possible Koran burning by fringe Florida pastor Terry Jones. On the one hand, the event has become larger than just one church congregation. On the other hand, if there's something politicians, celebrities, academics, pundits and many other Americans can agree on, it's that this pastor doesn't represent the values of the United States. So why should he and his tiny band of followers dominate the airwaves?
If the Koran burning occurs the Associated Press has decided it will not show images, and Fox News has sworn off covering the event altogether. According to a New York Times report, ABC, NBC and CBS spokespersons have indicated that they plan to cover the event "as they would any other," but that is obviously subject to change as the debate evolves. Here's a look at how it's taking shape:
The AP Will Not Distribute Images Or Audio in an internal memo sent to AP staff and published on Romenesko, Standards Editor Tom Kent outlines how the company will respond to a potential Koran burning: We will not, "specifically show Qurans being burned, and will not provide detailed text descriptions of the burning....AP policy is not to provide coverage of events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend."
- Fox News 'Unequivacally' Will Not Be Covering The Event reports David Zurawik at The Baltimore Sun. He quotes Fox New's Michael Clemente saying: "He's one guy in the middle of the woods with 50 people in his congregation who's decided to try, I gather, to bring some attention to himself by saying he's going to burn a Quran if he gets the permit. Well, you know what, there are many more important things going on in the world than that. I don't know what they will be this weekend, but I am sure they will be more important than that."
- It's a Slippery Slope hedges Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite, "this is a story that desperately needs some context and balance, (or needed…that horse has sort of left the barn so to speak) and the decision not to add fuel to the fire with upsetting images is in many ways admirable. But conversely, "balance and context where this story is concerned went out the window a while ago — in the interim Gen. Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and the State Department have all weighed in, meaning for better or worse this story has attained international importance."
- All Because Jones Put Up That 'Stupid' Sign? The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Thomas appears livid that the "event" is getting this much coverage: Is the media seriously expecting Jones, "to slap the side of his head in a moment of rational thought and introspection and, right there on camera, take it all back?" It's not gonna happen, and furthermore, "This is someone who can barely scrape together enough people to carry a tune in church, and now he has the world breathlessly waiting for his next words."
- Wait-And-See was the other major networks approach to the situation, reports Brian Stelter at The New York Times. CBS, NBC, and ABC all struck a "similar" tone in saying, in the words of an NBC statement, "Our policy is to cover news events as they take place, and report on them with context and perspective. The determination about what images are appropriate and will be broadcast will be made by NBC News management after the event happens."