Could the media have ignored Terry Jones and his Koran-burning plan?
The media have been criticized for giving Terry Jones and his Koran-burning scheme publicity. But the Web has changed the media landscape. Ignoring the event wasn't an option, media experts say.
For the moment, Pastor Terry Jones and the Islamic world appear to have reached a truce. The Florida pastor on Thursday called off plans to burn 200 Korans, saying he would instead travel to New York Saturday to talk with the imam of the mosque near ground zero about moving the Islamic center elsewhere.Skip to next paragraph
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But as news of the Koran burning circled the globe during the past week, so did questions about the role of the media in fanning the controversy.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week rapped the media for giving the Rev. Mr. Jones attention and suggested the media “ignore” his actions on Sept. 11. Deepak Chopra, author of the forthcoming book “Muhammad,” says in an e-mail: "The media has a responsibility to not contribute to rage and possible violence by not making a global phenomenon of what could have been a nonevent by an unimportant pastor."
But can a pastor, no matter how inconsequential, burn the sacred scriptures of another faith without notice in today’s interconnected world?
The Associated Press, at least, appeared to take the criticism to heart. Before the event was called off, AP had announced that it was not going to distribute images or audio that specifically showed Korans being burned.
But the pre-Internet days of a single news outlet guiding media coverage are gone, says Kevin Lerner of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, who has studied the history of journalism. Journalism is in a new, democratized era of information-gathering, he says. If a single religious “crackpot” anywhere in the depths of America’s backwoods decides to burn a Koran, and even one person is there with a cellphone to upload the image, then it enters the larger flow of content that travels everywhere, he notes.