Minneapolis Bridge Coverage Dominates, Almost
Yesterday's horrific bridge collapse in Minneapolis has been dominating the coverage today, with MSNBC, CNN and Fox all completely on the story with impressive aerial photos, witness interviews, and live reports from the scene from their marquee names, as were the networks with Brian Williams flying straight to the scene in the wee hours and Katie Couric this morning. The front pages across the country have been dominated by images of the crumpled bridge, and all the cabler websites have the story at the top with multiple angles (we give the edge here to CNN by a decent margin - tons of links, organized by most up-to-date, plus their I-Reportage has been stellar. Also - big scoop - they got the first actual footage of the bridge going down). The readers are on it, too: The three most popular stories on CNN.com are all bridge-related, same with MSNBC.com. About an hour ago, President Bush spoke about the tragedy and offered aid — meanwhile, the White House reports that the bridge had been inspected two years ago and "structural deficiencies" were found. There is no story more important than this one today, and sadly, as more cars are being found among the debris, it is a story that keeps developing.
So where the hell is Politico?
I went to that website earlier this morning to see their take on what this might mean for the campaigns — a renewed focus on domestic issues? An offensive against the priorities in this country, spending billions on terror while ignoring crumbling domestic infrastructure? Which of the candidates were best-positioned to speak to these sudden events, had domestic infrastructure as part of their campaign? How might an event like this recall Katrina, or implicate disaster preparedness? What was the Homeland Security take? Instead, I found "Democrats embrace gay agenda," and various articles namechecking Fred Thomspon, Patrick Leahy, Rudy Giuliani, Chuck Schumer and Bob Novak, with a standard-issue pic of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama smiling after the last debate.Huh?
There's news about the campaign, and then there's the inverted notion that the campaign itself is the news — a myopic way of looking at things, and, for any analytical/investigative outlet, dangerously limiting, especially in a campaign where the field is so wide open and the issues ranging widely across the board. To focus on Leahy sending a zinger at Bush or a poll suggesting that Hillary will beat Giuliani with women — shocker — seems almost bizarre when news like this is still dominating the national attention. I've refreshed a few times over the last hour or so — no updates — the front page has remained static (screengrab here). Whither the scrappy Ben Smith? Doesn't Mike Allen have some thoughts? Oh wait, he did — a few paragraphs down in his Politico Playbook, under the heading "Recess Politics," after a paragraph assuring readers of a Fred Thompson fix soon. Then, some actual news about the bridge, and the fact that the RNC '08 convention was to be held in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and a tidbit about how the convention chair sent out an email saying "The pictures we are seeing tonight are deeply concerning and serve as a reminder to us all about the preciousness of life." I just checked the page again and, oh look, that was the one shuffled off. It was replaced by "Obama's Tough Talk Falls Short."
It's a head-scratcher, truly — a national disaster, a still-unfolding tragedy and possibly a wake-up call for a system falling apart. [Update: See correction below.] Never mind that it was the White House which revealed that the bridge had fallen short under inspection — actual information, released so soon? Hmmm. Could that have any significance? Gee, what did Bush happen to say in his speech? You'd think a website called "Politico" might have been able to dredge up something. (Here's a hint: Blame the Dems. Though of course, no one wants to play politics at a time like this.)
I should note that Politico is not the only pub with a head-scratching website — today People.com boasts a front page chock-full of Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olson and other celebs — though at least the "Angels" of the Minneapolis rescue effort graduated from tiny bullet point headline to item with a small photo (below the aforementioned Nicole Richie). Good job, People — it's the one thing differentiating you from Us Weekly, and now you've reminded the world!
UPDATE: Commenter Cajun_Ken below rightly points out that the White House was not alone in releasing the information about the structural deficiencies of the bridge, reported also by several news sources and I erred in attributing it to the White House and Tony Snow (though a number of the linked reports sourced the White House for that information). However, I stand by my contention that it was an issue of current national relevance, as evinced by the questions directed at Snow at today's White House press briefing, as well as federal concern as it was an interstate bridge (within the state but quite literally the Interstate 35W). Better lawyers than I can parse through the applicability of "interstate commerce" in this instance but there can be no doubt that there is at least a prima facie implication. Regarding the argument that this was an isolated incident, well, the notion that it may be indicative of a larger problem is not mine alone, and as for Harry Potter, you can bet I'd prefer to write about fiction in this instance.
NB: In the meantime, for great coverage of the coverage, check out TVNewser for latest updates.