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If The Word Is Out, Why Show The Speech?

(AP Photo/Phil McCarten)
Brian Stelter at TV Newser had a question for the broadcast networks regarding their decision to broadcast President Bush's address last night:
The White House has carefully executed a series of leaks previewing President Bush's "address to the nation" tonight on immigration. Why, then, have you handed over prime time for it?

We know he's going to temporarily deploy 6,000 troops on the border, possibly for political gain; we know he's going to say "we do not have full control of the border," according to leaks timed for the evening newscasts; and we know he's going to call on Congress to provide more funding. What more are we going to know at 8:20 p.m., other than a sound bite?

You've already covered it for three days, and you'll cover it again on the morning shows. Why do these pronouncements deserve roadblock coverage in primetime?

In the Washington Post, Tim Shales echoed the sentiment:
The next time Bush makes a speech, however, the White House might consider breaking with its policy of leaking the talking points so far ahead of time. Back in the 20th century, administrations traditionally waited until an hour or two before air time to pass the speeches around to the media. Since what Bush said last night must have already been familiar to millions of those watching, they might have suspected it was all a rerun.
It's a fair point. But a fair response is that millions of Americans were not familiar with what Bush was going to say, since they are not (unlike Shales and Stelter and I) news junkies who spend their days in front of screens. If news organizations felt that Bush's statement was important – a subjective determination – than one can make the argument that they had an obligation to air it as a public service.

Oh, and there's a more cynical explanation as well: If you run a big business like a television network, you don't want to anger the government. Even if it is sweeps.

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