Media Orgs Pledge Not To Cover Koran Burning

Posted: Sep 10, 2010 12:45 PM
If the much-ballyhooed burning of a Koran actually takes places, at least two news organizations won't fully cover it: Fox News and the Associated Press.  Fox says the event wouldn't be sufficiently newsworthy whatsoever.  The AP hedges, only promising not to publish depictions of a burning Koran, presumably out of deference to Muslims.  Other news companies say they'd cover the event "like any other news story."

Who has it right here?  There are arguments to be made for all three approaches, and news execs ought to be asking themselves several tough questions:

(1) Gen. Petraeus, John McCain, and President Obama all agree that broadcasting images of Americans setting fire to Islam's holy text could put American servicemen abroad at greater peril.  How much should their assessment impact editorial decisions?  Is it worth making an abstract point about press freedom if it harms the men and women who are protecting that freedom?

(2) Terry Jones is a backwoods pastor with a congregation in the double digits, and Fred Phelps is just sick.  Are their threatened actions really newsworthy, or would devoting major media resources be a waste of energy and serve only to reward a publicity stunt? 

(3) Or is this mostly about the principle that no one religion is beyond reproach nor inoculated from offense in America?  If our media averts its eyes from a significant event purely to avoid the "Arab Street's" wrath, is our press truly free?

If you were sitting in a major news company's corner office today, how would you weigh these questions, and what would you decide?