February 6, 2013

A media story lies at the center of a Washington Post article on the Obama administration’s targeted killing program. In the story, The Post reveals that the 2011 attack that killed U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki was launched from a base in Saudi Arabia. That base, notes the story, was set up to combat al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian peninsula.

From there, Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung explain why news of the base is just now emerging:

The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.

A fascinating bit of media economics, in other words. The Erik Wemple Blog is checking with The Post and other organizations about why they participated in this arrangement. It’s a dicey venture, too — withholding information about a program about which the public knows so little in the first place. More to come.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.