The Media Blackout of Pastor Terry Jones

Friday, April 08, 2011


The Koran burning by Florida Pastor Terry Jones that set off violent protests in Afghanistan was very nearly a non-story. Turns out Jones' previous publicity stunt left the media feeling burned and individually they reached a near consensus - not to cover him again. Who was the one media outlet who defied the blackout? And what happens if a Koran is burned and no one reports on it? Media ethicist Steve Myers of weighs in.

Comments [24]


Honestly, I'm tired of hearing about Terry Jones, he's just an idiot with a lot of followers to be blunt about it. If the Koran is burned, I don't think it should be covered on the news because then middle eastern countries will hear about it and it will cause more problems. This man may not fully "cause" Afghanistan to lash out but it will definitely help fuel the fire.

Apr. 26 2011 11:41 AM
Jean from Seattle, USA

All this skirt-lifting and pearl-clutching over "publicity stunt" is making me shake my head. Every time The Donald goes on a book tour, issues a press release, or works the talk-show circuit, it's nothing BUT a "publicity stunt" -- why is the media so circumspect when the person is a small-time, local blow-hard, when they happily give a huge megaphone to big-time blow-hards like Trump? Why does the media magnify Trump's unfounded slander of the President and his dead mother -- in effect calling them liars in direct contradiction to the facts -- and then scurry to do a news black-out when some small-time nut-bag burns what is, in reality, just a stack of paper with some words printed on it?

Apr. 25 2011 09:27 AM
anna from New York

I know I will die from laughter. The entire discussion is comical. For many decades, several dozens of nations have had martial law, imprisonment of ... everyone, slavery, boiling of dissidents, NO rights for women, immigrants, children etc. Each time when yet another person was imprisoned ... where was news, but not for wonderful internatinal media. They have prefered silence, silence, silence. Or rather the bastards have talked ... talked, talked about guess it ... Israel.
Boiled dissident in Uzbekistan ... talk about Israel
A woman stoned for being raped in ... (many choices) ... talk about Israel
Slavery in Sudan ... talk about Israel
This what I heard whenever I turned on BBC.
So this sudden babbling about media ... not reporting/misreporting is absurd.

Apr. 18 2011 10:26 AM
Calill, Jeremy, Connor (P2T7) from Raleigh, NC

We believe that this article, has shed helpful light on media's somewhat unreliable nature. This is very unsettling and we believe news is news. All news should be reported no matter if it is attention seeking stories, and it is better to have news than none at all. We believe this article is useful to those who indulge in various media such as television, newspapers, and internet. They need to know that not everything the news says is true, and not all the stories are told to the public.

Apr. 18 2011 09:47 AM
Calill, Jeremy, Connor (P2T7) from Raleigh, NC

The Koran burning was caused by a pastor named Terry Jones. The event started violent and unruly protests in Afghanistan, however, the story was largely ignored by most reporters because it seemed as if it was a desperate cry for attention. The reporters ignored the story which made a figurative media ├Čblackout├«.
The significance is not about the Koran burnings though, but actually the main concern of the article is that the media has a choice to ignore any story they wish for reasons of it not being appealing. Controversy arises from this because the media is the only way we get news internationally, and we see it as a reliable, tell-all source for what happens. However, with this case its evident that the media has a clear opinion on what and what not to report. This reality is startling as it means that the media could be withholding any information from the public.

Apr. 18 2011 09:46 AM
anna from New York

Mort, I'll add to my comment on your comment. There are numerous problems with American education. One of them is corporatisation. Monolingual Americans are told that they have to write correct sentences about positivity and negativity, strategic planning and team working, follow the rules, particularly the punctuation rules which are of course ueber Alles. They don't have to know ... anything else.
In reality, after some second set of the punctuation rules (yes, they are different) one realises that there are more important things. Not to mention, of course, that a certain level of education and independent and creative spirit liberate one from linguistic "Muss sein." No, it "muss sein" only in corporate America.

Apr. 17 2011 11:37 AM
anna from New York

"While I commend the media for understanding this stunt was done just to get some attention"
Connor, and you know that his was a stunt ... to get some attention ... how?

Apr. 16 2011 09:01 PM
anna from New York

"I have no idea what the "prostitutional left" is. Frankly, I can't make sense out of the writing of those who use such phrases. It just looks like a collection of unconnected phrases, devoid of structure, coherence, or logic"#15
Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Apparently, you and I shouldn't be in the same discussion. Well, the "prostitutional" left is the one which declares to be "left" and is paid to promote a certain agenda, e.g. paid by Stalin in the past, paid by among others by the Saudis now (yes, I've coined this word). It's interesting to see traditions in some families, such as the Cockburns. If you see only unconnected phrases, devoid of structure ... etc. ... in my texts, it's your problem. Ah, BTW, English is my 7th language. Maybe, when you WRITE in your 7th language the way I do it in English and meet some other requirements, such solid education in a number of areas and ... above average analytical skills we will be able to have a discussion.
So, now you know that English isn't the only language in the world.
dr anna

Apr. 16 2011 08:53 PM
Connor from Raleigh

While I commend the media for understanding this stunt was done just to get some attention, I think it is time for the news/media to increase its blocking of attention grabbers who do stunts just to get attention. if the media would just ignore them than they would go away and stop perpetrating these ridicules stunts. all those people want is attention and when we give to them it validates that what they did was ok.

Apr. 15 2011 12:44 PM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Ha ha ha ha...

I have no idea what the "prostitutional left" is. Frankly, I can't make sense out of the writing of those who use such phrases. It just looks like a collection of unconnected phrases, devoid of structure, coherence, or logic.

Well, that's okay. Electrons are cheap. I wasted time reading it and puzzling over its purported meaning, but it's not like my time is very valuable anyway.

Apr. 15 2011 08:22 AM
anna from New York

Marcia, I think you are missing something important, actually many things important. One of them is the difference between someone's unknown cousin and people such as Sheen who are in the news all the time. Ignoring his rants would mean misrepresention of him, whitewashing, distortion of reality and absolute disservice to the population. We have too much of celebrity idolatry already. Celebrity chefs who are not familiar with such concepts as history, society etc. preach to us on the pages ... of NYT on the subject ... you guess it ... history and society and dictate what our values should be. Tell me this isn't madness.
I don't think that Jones is crazy, actually he demostrated where the problem is.

Apr. 14 2011 07:19 AM
Marcia from Cleveland

The fact that this pathetic publicity stunt received so little coverage restores my faith in the judgment of certain members of the media. Terry Jones and his ilk only perform these insane acts because of the attention they get. It's not that the media didn't tell the story, the fact is that there is no story to tell.

Unfortunately in this age of reality TV and gossip blogs we've conditioned ourselves to believe that every act of stupidity and self-involvement deserves to be examined and discussed. We call it news but it isn't, it's craziness. We pay money to listen to the ravings of Charlie Sheen instead of shunting him off into a mental hospital where he belongs. We give the Birthers airtime and attention instead of...shunting them off into mental hospitals where they belong. How about we stop breathlessly watching all these car accidents and just keep on driving?

When your racist cousin says something ignorant it isn't news, it's just ignorant. That's all Terry Jones is: ignorant. Congratulations to the news media for realizing that we didn't need to be witness and co-conspirator to that ignorance.

Apr. 13 2011 04:14 PM
anna from New York

Correction to my previous comments on Molly Norris.
I double checked and the new results:
Democracy Now - no results. Molly Norris doesn't exist. Yes, our Amy deserves all the awards. Yes, sarcasm.
NPR - discussed the Norris's project and then ... nothing,nothing, nothing.
NYT actually noticed the disappearance of an artist.

Apr. 12 2011 06:51 AM
Courtenay from Bellingham WA

I recently was fortunate to hear Malalai Joya (former member of the Afghanistan Parliament and outspoken critic of its government) speak. When asked about this event, her response was that most Afghans do not care about such ridiculous acts. What they do care about is safety in their country and a government that is not corrupt. Her opinion was that the Koran burning was brought up by Karzai and the warlords in power as a ploy to divert the people's anger from themselves to the West.

I was surprised that I hadn't heard about the burning until I did, but, as many others have commented, it's not because it is significant news but because the media tend to spend a lot of time on acts like this, instead of trying to open our eyes to what is really going on in Afghanistan and other countries where our government is acting in the interest of corporations rather than the interest of the people -- both there and here.

Apr. 10 2011 10:16 PM
anna from New York

"You are being naive if you believe the sole cause of the riot was Terry Jones"#4
We aren't naive (or at least not all "we"), just manipulated and silenced (all "we")

Apr. 10 2011 02:19 PM
anna from New York

"What else isn't being covered?"#8
I explained above - Molly Norris. And who knows what else.
BTW, there is nothing stupid about Danish cartoons, or there is as much stupid as in any other cartoons.
The problem is somewhere else.

Apr. 10 2011 02:12 PM
Ben from Vermont

I was surprised at the reaction of Bob Garfield and in some of the comments above endorsing the news blackout of the Florida Koran burning. As the reaction in Afghanistan proves (and whether we like it or not), Pastor Jones' burning of the Koran was news (regardless of the publicity motives and had a lot more news value than much of what is covered). It was shameful for most of the news media not to cover it. (What else isn't being covered?)

Just as Lindsay Graham is wrong to make Jones' action a crime, the news media should not be acting as a censor for us because of their fears (even legitimate ones) of the consequences of reporting news. Despite the negative consequences and sometimes high cost of even stupid First Amendment expression (like the Koran burning, Danish cartoons), a truly free society cannot selectively decide what expressions to allow and not to allow or have its news media selectively decide what news is SAFE to cover.

When I heard of the attack on UN staff because of the Koran burning, my immediate reaction was also "what Koran burning?" with my memory of how the Pastor Jones story resolved itself last year. When I realized that I hadn't missed the story, but that the news media had collectively chosen not to tell me, my reaction was not gratitude but anger and disappointment.

Apr. 10 2011 01:32 PM
anna from New York

The pastor has all the rights to burn his book on his land in his country. His law allows him to do it.
The problem with Jones and the murders is in ... the response.
I am Jewish. The prostitutional "left" loves, loves, loves attacking my God, my religion, my scripture, my people. The last time I checked, I didn't murder countless people in response.
The same prostitutional "left" which shows in force to defend any antisemitic sicko's "free speech" (even when the speech isn't free but paid by oil or any other money) is silent, silent, silent when the life of an American artist was (is) threatened and turned upside down. Who exactly is financing the prostitutional "left?"
This is the question.

Apr. 10 2011 07:22 AM
anna from New York

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha
I did a couple of searches. I started with Democracy Now where a brave and courageous "award winning" (from criminal "colleges") host rules. Below are the results:
"Sorry, there were no search results for your query of:
"Molly norris"
I went then to NYT and ... guess what ... the same result (except for a couple of reader's comments posted this week)
Then I decided to check NPR. Guess what? Not a trace of Molly Norris there.
All these "media actually have covered the Pastor extensively.

So speaking of blackout ...
I think I deserve an award.

Apr. 10 2011 06:26 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

It's interesting that Christians, and for pete's sake, Mitch McConnell asked the media not to cover Terry Jones...

..but they listened to a Muslim Imam, and then didn't. Why is that?

Apr. 09 2011 10:44 PM
Terry Jones did not cause the riot from Brooklyn

You are being naive if you believe the sole cause of the riot was Terry Jones. Needless to say Afghans these days have a wide range of complaints directed against virtually all foreigners in their country, so it is convenient for some to blame it 100% on Terry Jones. Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing was a nice exploration of the varying motives for a riot.

Apr. 09 2011 08:47 PM
John Young from Montana

Radical groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and Jones exist only because of the unwarranted coverage they receive.
Either ignore them, or better yet, investigate them. I'd sure like to read more thorough coverage of their financing, for example.

Apr. 09 2011 06:42 PM
steven waldbaum from scarsdale ny

The Media has again not done its job.
It did not deal with the fact that in Libya like
in the Middle East in general there is a culture of violence.
There was only a choice of who will massacre whom.
If Quaddafi wins the rebels will be killed but if the
rebels win the proquaddafists will be massacred.
The Media has also not reported at all on how
the rebels have so far treated the captured proQuaddafi
prisoners. I venture a guess that the Red Cross would
not be happy.
Furthermore reporting on protecting innocent civilians who carry arms and aim at the violent overthrow of
a government seems a bit oxymoronic.
It is difficult not to dislike Quaddafi but the thought
of the triumph of the 'religious' Eastern Libya which has
provided lots of AlQuaida volunteers does not make
me very optimistic.
Why this unanimous support of the new war ?

Apr. 09 2011 05:36 PM
Eric Goebelbecker from USA

"the strange thing about this story is how close this came to not being reported."

Unfortunately, it is strange that it came close to not being reported. As you yourself said, it was staged purely to attract the media, so that they could help him do nothing but cause trouble and unhappiness.

Seeing most of the media actually display a modicum of judgement is downright bizarre.

What would be even more unusual would them learning a lesson from what happened when someone did decide to take the bait.

Apr. 09 2011 01:52 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.