When it came to telling the world that Osama Bin Laden had finally been killed, President Obama faced a number of challenges, says Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business.
First and foremost, Obama had to strike the right tone: namely, happy, but not celebratory. He had to put the killing in context, recalling the horrifying events of September 11, 2001. He had to be respectful to Islam. He had to tread lightly around Pakistan, which, knowingly or unknowingly, had been harboring Bin Laden. And, politically, he had to take credit for the assassination, without make the speech all about him.
President Obama accomplished all of these goals, says Professor Argenti. The only confusing thing, Argenti says, was why Obama waited until 11:30 on the East Coast to make his speech, when many people had already gone to bed. (The explanation at the time was that Obama was working on his speech and telling some people personally.)
The President's handling of Bin Laden's death came in sharp contrast to the bizarre way some TV networks handled it, notably CNN. Even when the Bin Laden news had spread for 15-20 minutes on Twitter, with several seemingly reliable sources fueling the reports and speculation, CNN refused to say what everyone expected Obama to talk about. After a while, CNN even seemed to be congratulating itself for not reporting what many other networks and millions of viewers were already talking about. In so doing, the network seemed to almost be begging viewers to change the channel.
(And, to be clear, the frustration with CNN was not that the network was not reporting something that it hadn't confirmed. It was that CNN refused to even acknowledge what the speculation was and what other networks were reporting.)
Now that the world has entered the "Twitter era," this sort of behavior looks anachronistic and even patronizing. By refusing to even mention what other networks and Twitter had already reported, CNN seemed to be treating its viewers like children, as though they couldn't be trusted to understand that had the Bin Laden news had yet to be officially verified.
Professor Argenti did not see CNN's coverage live, but he was bewildered by its handling of the affair.
- President Obama
- Osama Bin Laden
- tread lightly