Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember media coverage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tianenmen Square, both of which I observed from the US, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which I watched live on the BBC while living in London. At the time, media were unencumbered by competition from the internet, tied into the Cold War narrative, and pushing the envelope of what was possible with cable news.
Editors certainly recognized what they were seeing, and made decisions about coverage accordingly. Coverage of those events was constant, hitting saturation point immediately, and stayed there for days. Media executives seemed to understand the history unfolding before their eyes, and took it as their responsibility to be eyes and ears not just for their audiences, but for the people in the crosshairs.
No obstacle was enough to stop the coverage. Even when China cut off CNN from Beijing, CNN reported repeatedly that they were cut off. BECAUSE IT IS NEWS WHEN A NEWS ORGANIZATION IS SHUT DOWN. When tanks hit the streets in Moscow in 1991, cameras were there, regardless of safety concerns, in one of the most closed societies on earth at the time, as the outcome was in grave doubt. Reporters risked their lives.
Today, as global geopolitics is shaken to its core by events in Iran, I turned on cable news this morning, and saw endless ads for a Larry King Jonas Brothers “interview”, Morning Joe yukking it up discussing Kuwaiti massage therapists, a video of a tomato throwing contest on CNN, talk radio blowhard Bill Bennett…and occasionally a phone call from Christiane Amanpour in Tehran. I can’t even bring myself to turn on the network morning programs, I might vomit.
All the while, I have been hitting refresh like a crazy person on this thread at Huffington Post, which reports on news organizations banned, reporters arrested, crowds building for a Mousavi rally as I post this, etc. etc. Huffington Post has no reporter on the ground, no international bureau, no satellite phones in Tehran, and yet, that is the most thorough news source on this story you can find.
I suppose, in fact, pray to GOD, this will turn around at some point, but as of this moment, I cannot think of a bigger failure of our media culture in my lifetime. Not only is there limited coverage, it appears editors don’t even recognize what they are seeing before their eyes.