The Washington Post, which prides itself on being a local paper, 
lead with the hostage story and teased the Middle East talks. 
The Washington Times--which is a conservative paper which describes 
itself as "America's Paper" (which I take to mean it has a national focus)
--lead with the Middle East talks and teased the hostage story. 
Today, a  man took hostages at the Discovery Channel after entering the building armed with guns, explosives, and a manifesto.

He was demanding that the channel promote radical solutions to environmental problems including, but not limited to, forced sterilization.

But you don't have to take my word for it, you can read the two-page manifesto at the Washington Post's website.

Almost exactly 15 years ago, the Post published another manifesto: the Unabomber's.

Sharing the costs with the New York Times, the Post printed the 50-page manifesto in a special section, but only after months of deliberating over the decision: it was received by the papers in June and not published until December.

Part of the reason for the papers' reticence was that it was directly giving into the Unabomber's demands for publication; Ted Kaczynski said he would stop the bombings if his manifesto was published. Part of it was surely cost. Part of the decision to publish was that an FBI hope that it would help someone recognize the writing and identify the Unabomber

But I have to wonder if the papers would have waited so long to publish, if they received the manifesto today. For one thing, it could have been printed online for free-- though I imagine that Kaczynski would not have been happy with that option, what with being so anti-technology. Also, and more cynically, it would have driven a lot of web traffic to the site, in fact, even in the 90's, the manifesto was widely disseminated on the Internet, and the case had the web abuzz.

But the Internet is a little different today, there is a need for getting news and information out first, regardless of its true news value. There is also some ethos of letting readers decide if the information should be read and passed along.

In today's hostage situation, there were ultimately no victims: all the hostages got out safely. There were also no demands to print the manifesto, so publishing it wasn't giving into demands or cooperating with the FBI. By the time it was published, the hostage situation was almost over.

The questions of how the availability of information on the Internet and of whether or not the status of a case should affect the decision to print came up in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. In fact, the New York Times highlighted that issue by comparing the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho's video manifestos sent to television stations to the Unabomber's manifesto sent to newspapers:
There is nothing new about criminals trying to manipulate the news media for aggrandizement and gratification. The Zodiac and Son of Sam killers, among others, wrote cryptic messages to newspapers. The Unabomber wrote a large manifesto. And the newspapers, including The New York Times, published them.
The visceral impact of Mr. [Seung-Hui] Cho's video represented an evolution of this virulent strain, updated for a time when any act, no matter how odd or personal, seems destined for immortality on the Web and cycled through 24-hour news channels.
Each of the earlier cases had the plausible suggestion that publishing the message would prevent further harm. Now, Mr. Cho was dead before his videos were shown.

The families of the murdered students at Virginia Tech objected to airing the videos; they felt the decision was insensitive and the videos gave an almost unfettered platform for Cho's views.

In the hostage situation today, there were no victims to object to the printing of the manifesto; the only person who was killed was the gunman himself. This time, the gunman also had his own printing press, in a way: he posted his demands on his own website, Does the fact that the manifesto was already available to the public change what the Post needs to think about before it publishes the document on its own site? It's not easy to get an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, which surely gets more page views than But today, the Post offered up an unedited opinion piece from a guy who used violence to get his opinions heard. Without a crime-stopping aspect, or an obvious newsworthiness (were the quotes in the story not enough?) what was the goal of printing the manifesto? Why print it on your own site instead of just linking to another site? Other than page views, what did it achieve?

The overarching question is, just because the Internet allows newspapers to print whatever they want and as much as they want, should they?

On a similar note, Slate's Jack Schaffer wrote an interesting article about how much coverage newspapers should really give this kind of crime, though he might be being a bit harsh on the Post because it was an important local story as it was happening, and I am sure people checked in wanting updates throughout the day. The Times, it should be noted, did not cover it at all (as far as I can tell).

UPDATE Sept. 2: The Washington Post ran the story front page, complete with photos. There were teasers on the front page to online content, but the online content is housed on So, even though it was A1, the story's online home indicates that the Post covered it because it was a metro crime story.

Still, people are murdered in D.C. all the time, and I don't think those crimes make A1. Here, no one was hurt except the gunman who was slain by the police. I am sure that the death of the gunnman, James J. Lee, was a tragedy for his family and for people who knew him. But I imagine mothers of children who were killed in crossfire on the streets of D.C. (in areas much less wealthy than Silverspring) wonder why their tragedies did not get as much attention as the death of a man who started out his day with the intention of getting the media to pay attention to him and his views.

The New York Times also ran a story, on page A22 of the New York edition. It was not teased off of the front page.

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