The world could lose two-thirds of its polar bears in a half a century's time, because global warming is making Arctic sea ice melt far faster than scientists had predicted. Sounds like an important story with an attention-grabbing headline. And it is.
Too bad so many people will miss it. The Bush Administration, in a classic journalistic jujitsu move, released the U.S. Geologic Survey report on a summer Friday around 3 p.m.
What were you thinking about at Friday at 3 p.m.? Or Saturday morning for that matter. My guess: Not polar bears. Not news at all. After all, there are barbecues and parties, house chores and weekend trips to attend to.
Reporters and their editors are professional, but they are human -- as are the expert sources they might consult about the results of a landmark study such as this. So news outlets have fewer resources to throw at a story on a Friday afternoon, and even the most enterprising reporter will find it more difficult to track down the best sources to discuss the news of the moment.
Network and cable news draw among their smallest audiences on Friday nights. Newspapers see their lowest circulation on Saturdays, when any headlines about the polar bear will be printed.
In other words, if you want a story buried, ignored, glossed over -- and quickly forgotten -- tell journalists about it on a Friday afternoon.
President George W. Bush and his political appointees have made an art of the Friday environmental news release. Whether it was an announcement about regulatory programs that rolled back protection for clean air and water, an unpopular pro-industry appointment or a new scientific analysis, the last moment in the last day of the week has been the time to make a statement.
The reason is all too clear. Did you miss it? Read the story here.
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