Explainer: How Poor Timing Buries Important News - WhoWhatWhy

Explainer: How Poor Timing Buries Important News

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s a truism, yet still worth mentioning, that timing is everything in the news business. That’s why those seeking maximum impact typically seek to make announcements when people are paying attention and when there’s little competing news. In the old, pre-Internet days, stories out first thing Monday morning scored big. Ditto for certain long-form stories on Sundays, back when people devoted hours to reading their favorite newspaper on their day of rest.

A lot of those rules went out the window with the arrival of the 24-hour cable news cycle and the subsequent rise of the instantaneous posting culture on Twitter and other social media.

Yet while it is harder today to time the release of news for maximum impact, it is still surprisingly easy to bury news—news that one feels compelled to release but is reluctant to disseminate too widely.

Typically, news that appears as everyone is rushing away for the weekend gets less attention. Ditto for news that falls on or around a holiday.

For example: On Christmas Eve, Human Rights Watch issued a statement charging Palestinian groups in Gaza with violating the rules of war by deliberately firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli population centers during November’s fighting. “Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.” A brief item, which did not include the quote, appeared in the New York Times on Christmas Day.

Unless some new information is added, that scant mention will be all the public ever sees of this important story. After Christmas Day it will become “old news” and relatively few people will have noted it and fewer still will remember it.  Which will be a great pity.

One reason that this story is so interesting is that Human Rights Watch has been a regular critic, with justification, of Israel’s aggressive responses to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli territory. In fact, the organization recently blamed Israel for the deaths of Palestinian civilians and journalists that might have been avoided if Israel’s military response had been more measured—notwithstanding the fact that the Palestinians intentionally position their rocket launchers, which are aimed at Israeli civilians, in or near their own civilian population centers.

Gaza is a complex, highly volatile issue, with most of the public strongly divided. It is the business of outfits like Human Rights Watch, and of the journalists who help disseminate their reports, to bring out all the relevant information about the legitimate concerns on both sides, and to try mightily to make sure that the public is exposed to the full range of information.

In its Christmas Eve statement, Human Rights Watch makes the point that it “has repeatedly condemned indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli population centers, as well as Hamas’ failure to hold anyone accountable for those attacks.” Maybe so, but those earlier condemnations appeared piecemeal, in contrast to the comprehensive judgment that this report represents. The new report is a welcome addition to the media treatment of the Gaza issue. But for that very reason, the timing of its release raises questions about the motives behind it.

Because of the way it was released, the new HRW statement —  which amounts to a definitive wrap-up of the November hostilities –will achieve limited exposure. Most likely, only supporters of Israel will circulate it, as a kind of “I told you so.” Perhaps this unfortunate timing was unintentional. But some might be excused for wondering if, in a difficult fundraising environment, HRW perceived Christmas as a good time to target donors with pro-Israel sympathies, while managing not to antagonize donors with a different set of concerns.


Of course, the timing of actual news events is beyond the control of media organizations. A tragic example is the Christmas Eve ambush of volunteer firefighters in upstate New York. Coming barely a week after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the Webster shooting certainly warrants prominent billing in the newly invigorated discussion about how to handle the firearms explosion in America.

But will the shooting in Webster of four volunteer firefighters, two of whom died, properly register? Will we take into account the particulars of what happened and what if anything could have prevented it?

Early reports from Webster tell us that William Spengler, 62, a man who killed his grandmother in 1980, started a fire expressly to draw the first responders into his gunsights.

Spengler, who promptly turned his gun on himself after the recent bloodshed, was clearly a deeply troubled individual. As a convicted felon, he was prohibited from having firearms, yet he was found with three weapons by his side, including a rifle. Local authorities said there had been recent gun thefts in the area. Plus, of course, it is never that hard for any private individual to buy weapons from another private individual.

In the Webster case, the National Rifle Association’s “solution” to the Newtown massacre –posting armed guards at all schoolhouses in America– would have done nothing to save the lives of the victims. That’s why, for an intelligent conversation, we need all of the information. And we need it when we’re paying attention.

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13 responses to “Explainer: How Poor Timing Buries Important News”

  1. Avatar Matt Prather says:

    Quiet bit of news news about Company #7 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

    The date? November 16, 2012

    The source?

    Some of the quotes?
    Karl Thomson Holdings Limited announces Neil Bush as an executive director and deputy chairman.

    Mr. Bush had more than 30 years of experience in energy related businesses and international business development. He formed oil companies which explored oil resources in various states in the United States of America, and has also engaged in various international business development activities with a focus on the PRC and Middle East and in particular, he visited cities in the PRC and worked with numerous entities on a variety of projects including real estate development, energy, automobile parts, sheet rock manufacturing and paint production.

    In the last two years, Mr. Bush was a non-executive director of China Resources and Transportation Group Limited, he is currently the President of ATX Oil.

    The ownership class.

    We cheer and boo the heroes and the hobgoblins; they own the theater and our seats and they will forever charge us for the privilege of attending the theater we built and the stories we create.

    (and they’re moving the financial seat of their global control to Asia, by the way)

  2. Avatar KGB says:

    Ah, so for the sake of the “intelligent conversation” we can ignore this right? – Cops in Schools, a Clinton initiative from the late 90’s “Pelosi, Schumer, and other Dems were for it before they were against it” (and don’t talk about the millions in Gov. grants and hand outs that went with that) : http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/336637/cops-schools-eliana-johnson

    • Avatar Russ says:

      Not so fast, pardner. I do not see any mention there of the cops under Clinton’s proposal being ARMED guards. no mention of them having weapons. Schools having someone responsible for security is common, and has been so for a long time, in many cases predating that program. Do you have evidence that the Clinton program mandated that they would have weapons? This is what we mean by “intelligent conversation”–including being fair about facts.

    • Avatar KGB says:

      The COPS program was about community outreach, funding and the hiring and placement of additional *Law Enforcement Officer* to special assignments within communities… like schools. Note that’s additional LEO’s *not* civilians. To find out if they were armed or not you would have to research their specific deployment and/or department policies. Having said that, as an active *on-duty LEO* it’s highly likely they *would* be armed regardless of location.

    • Avatar Matt Prather says:

      I think I followed the topic and discussion to this point.

      Clinton’s measures were cut from the same cloth as Reagan’s, Bush’s, and Obama’s. They are ad-hoc measures implemented by warring supra-national elite persons and corporations under the supposed color of law.

      I, for one, think there is no essential debate about whether or not the US Executive or even the whole of the Federal Government can impose gun bans on states. They can and probably will deny funding to states on any number of non-gun funding issues, which is a slightly different issue, even as it is just another tactic for accomplishing the same goal.

      If someone wants to argue that the Federal Government already has established the precedent that it may impose such “reasonable” measures as necessary for National Security or “the will of the people” or whatever-reasons they can come up with, then I would say that the playing field is changed, and the people are re-examining their laws and their place in society and their “social contracts”. They seem, to me, to like what The Second Amendment literally says. That Amendment will be considered a valid law by many such people who see a different playing field and who want a new social contract. Apart from the “de iure” aspect mentioned above, it sure seems to me (based on my media inputs) that “de facto” the Federal Government has no such authority to ban guns at the moment. (If anyone wants to quibble over whether or not The Feds are trying to literally “ban guns”, I suggest to them that they are completely missing the point. The point is that the elites are using their media control to make us consent to giving up even the right for an individual person to use guns in defense of his state, municipality, or home.)

      And if someone wants to argue that treaties under the United Nations can serve as law for such gun bans, then I would quickly remind them that the United Nations is just the United States of the Next World Order. Would we really want to accept the yoke of such an oppressive institution? No, not while the class of predatory criminals who subverted the United States government — of which George H.W. Bush was one amongst many — have set up the UN to be their next choke point of elite control.

      It really all comes down to elite individuals at supra-national levels in the corporate “world” who attack the nation-state, state, or municipality that is most objectionable to their world order at the moment. That target currently seems to be the U.S. with its aroused population, belief in a tradition of independence from monarchy, and its guns.

      We can look to Greece, through our tainted media portals, for some suggestion of what happens when these super-elitists want to bring an educated Western country to fold in this day and age. (They fail, even in their “successes” and they then retreat and try to attack again.)

      I am currently studying the war that took place near Antarctica in 1982. (A place named “Georgia” and Las Islas Malvinas.) (Alexander Haig’s “Waterloo”?)

      And if someone has read all I said, and is wondering what sort of “solution” I envision to all the supposed problems, it’s simply a bottom-up revolution of thought and responsibility, rather than yet another telling of the same old story of people giving trust to far-off institutions that they shouldn’t have trusted.

      “Plus, of course, it is never that hard for any private individual to receive (or seem to receive) weapons from an elite globalist corporation.”

    • Avatar KGB says:

      100% Agree. Public dept = indebted obligation.

    • Avatar Matt Prather says:

      put over / pushed onto / de-frauded onto… the public… by institutionalized bondage

      WhoWhatWhy[dot]com auto-recommends I check out #1. That’s a fair point; it’s been a while since I read it and probably missed stuff.

      I also contributed to the discussion over at #2 after writing my statement in this thread.

      1: http://whowhatwhy.com/2010/03/10/what-obama-is-up-against
      2: http://whowhatwhy.com/2012/12/26/fact-checking-wayne-lapierre

    • Avatar Matt Prather says:

      Russ Baker opens Page 1, Chapter One, of both editions that I know of Family of Secrets with this quote:

      The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, is that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.
      —Franklin D. Roosevelt to Colonel Edward House, October 21, 1933

      History is not history unless it is the truth.
      —Abraham Lincoln

  3. Avatar H.P. Loathecraft says:

    Have to add that the timing of the vote on reauthoriziation of the FISA Amendments Act appears pretty carefully chosen to slide by below the horizon largely unnoticed.

  4. Avatar Rob says:

    Very true, timing is everything. There’s also a massive difference between what is REPORTED and what is REPEATED.