12/02/2005 03:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Ecology of News

My earliest lesson in the ecology of journalism came when I was a kid, working as a reporter trainee in the LA bureau of a national newsweekly magazine. I stumbled across a new development in a story--I forget what it was--and duly notified the New York office. Their reponse was brief and to the point: had this been reported yet in the NYT or even the LA Times? If not, in their opinion, it didn't belong in the magazine. I kept my opinion--that our possession of the information first made it actually qualify as "news"--to my youthful self.

So here we are, more than a month since the NO Times Picayune began reporting results of forensic surveys by independent investigators pointing to "design and construction flaws" in the 17th St. Canal, leading directly to the catastrophic flooding of much of central New Orleans. The TP has been reporting in the wilderness. But now, after a story appeared in yesterday's NYT reporting identical results by the official Louisiana team investigating the flooding, the floodgates, so to speak, have opened. Here's today's AP story, which like the NYT piece, seems pegged interestingly: rather than the independent investigations' results triggering the coverage, these stories seem triggered by the Corps' confirmation of the findings of the Corps' culpability. In other words, the news was the guilty plea, not the indictment. Tom DeLay must be wondering how he can get that deal.