America

'Quran Burning': Is It News Or Not?

The story of Florida pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn Qurans on Saturday, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has clearly gone global. President Obama has commented (urging Jones to call the whole thing off). Sarah Palin has weighed in (asking Jones to "stand down".) There's outrage in the Muslim world. In Britain, a man accused of radicalizing young Muslims has called for the burning of the American flag in protest.

Intense coverage of the story has inspired comments such as this one from Two-Way reader Stephen McAllister on a post written by J.J. yesterday:

"This guy and his band of half-baked followers are obviously crack-pots. But that's okay. Crack-pots can be crack-pots in their own little world. But the news media and those of us who follow it are encouraging them to be crack-pots and that's what's not okay. (Now, I wish I could stop looking at it, but it's like coming on an accident on the road. As ugly and disgusting as it is, you just can't look away, and the media knows it.)"

When a story like this reaches the saturation point in the media, there are always those who say that news outlets are giving it too much attention and that it's just not "news". There's always the option, of course, of not tuning in or reading about it.

So, we wonder:

We'll keep the question open until Saturday morning.

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. The Associated Press has just announced it will not distribute photos of any Qurans being burned.

Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for Standards and Production at the AP, has issued a memo that says, in part:

"The concept of this planned event is offensive to many Muslims worldwide. National leaders and spokesmen for other religious denominations have also found the plan repugnant.

"Should the event happen on Saturday, the AP will not distribute images or audio that specifically show Qurans being burned, and will not provide detailed text descriptions of the burning. With the exception of these specific images and descriptions, we expect to cover the Gainesville event, in all media, placing the actions of this group of about 50 people in a clear and balanced context.

"AP policy is not to provide coverage of events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend."

Kent also writes that "although many are speculating on the effect the Quran burning could conceivably have, at the moment it’s a proposal by a tiny group that may or may not even happen."

Update at 5:15 p.m. ET. Breaking news via the AP — Jones says there won't be any burning:

"The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy says he is canceling plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. Pastor Terry Jones said Thursday that he decided to cancel his protest because the leader of a planned Islamic Center near ground zero has agreed to move its controversial location. The agreement couldn't be immediately confirmed."

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