Over at Mediaite.com, Glynnis MacNicol juxtaposes the recent deaths of Walter Cronkite and Michael Jackson to make an interesting point... the mainstream press does an excellent job reporting things they are prepared to cover.
While the death of Walter Cronkite may have initiated a lot of chatter bemoaning the changes that have occurred in TV news coverage since his heyday, his death also provided a great platform for the main stream media to show off its strengths, as well as its ultimate weaknesses.
Unlike Michael Jackson's surprising death a few weeks earlier, Cronkite's diminishing health had been common knowledge in media circles for quite some time, giving most major media outlets time to prepare a slick respectful homage to the journalism giant. When Katie Couric broke the news on CBS it was with a well edited reel of Cronkite's greatest moments. There was also the flawless special that ran last night in lieu of 60 Minutes. Not to mention, the New York Times had two obituaries and a homepage slide show ready to go shortly after the news was announced.
Blogs, in this case, seemed less useful beyond acting as a conduit for the pre-packaged material. Round-ups of videos appeared (many courtesy of CBS's YouTube channel); we did a collection, as well as a Twitter round-up. However, beyond that there seemed very little reason to immediately scramble anything together when the big boys had already done such a bang up job.
While I think much of the Cronkite coverage has been touching, it seems each week we get yet another example of the media's inability to cover breaking news without turning to speculation or wall-to-wall coverage of stale-news-as-breaking-news. That doesn't even take into consideration what the media often claims to be "breaking news" – anyone remember the suburban-DC man stuck in a tree from last year? That kind of b.s. garners "live," "breaking news" all the time.