Curiouser and curiouser

Back in January, I tumbled down a blog rabbithole. The New York Times had reported that the National Security Agency was listening in on international calls by American citizens without consulting FISA courts, and people were wondering if there might be more to the story. They were wondering this so acutely, in fact, that NBC news correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked New York Times correspondent James Risen, who had broken the story, an unusual question: “You don’t have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?”

John Aravosis promptly intuited that Mitchell would not have asked the question without a reason, and not long after he did, NBC deleted the question and Risen’s answer from the online transcript of the interview. This sent bloggers into a frenzy. A spokesperson told TVNewser that the transcript “was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting.” But the trails of paranoid, speculative comments at the ends of dailyKos posts snaked longer and longer down the webpage. . . .

And thus I wasted most of a day, in hopes that the mystery would come clear. It didn’t. A few weeks later, I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was an exemplary case of why I should not read blogs. I’ve written journalism, and I know that sometimes a provocative fragment turns out to lead nowhere. Filtered news keeps one’s life more focused. If it had proved to be a real story, it would have showed up eventually in the paper over breakfast. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be provoked.

All this still may be true; I probably should be more vigilant about squandering my attention, because I seem to have so little of it. But it’s interesting that CJR Daily believes that the vanishing-“was-Christiane-Amanpour-bugged?”-question story has a sequitur at last, in this morning’s revelation on ABC News’s blog The Blotter that a senior law enforcement official told two reporters there that “It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,” because the government was tracking the phone numbers they dialed, as part of a CIA leak investigation.