The Noise Business

It's official. After bleating on about how objective and fair they all are, the media big boys are openly admitting they smeared Howard Dean by playing his "Scream" Iowa speech 633 times. "It was a big story, but the challenge in a 24-hour news network is that you try to keep all of your different viewers throughout the day informed without overdoing it," Princell Hair, CNN's general manager, told the AP.

Joe Trippi, Dean's former campaign manager, said, "It shouldn't be an anvil that you keep hammering to destroy his candidacy. I don't think there was a big conspiracy to do that, but that's what was going on."

The incident took on such a life, said Paul Slavin, senior vice president of ABC News, that "the amount of attention it was receiving necessitated more attention." But even Roger Ailes, the influential GOP conservative who runs Fox News for Rupert Murdoch, told ABC News that it was "overplayed a bit."

CBS News president Andrew Heyward said the cumulative effect was that the event was covered more than was justified. "It's just inherent in the structure of the news media today, especially with the role that 24-hour cable plays," Heyward said. "Cable thrives on repetition and, let's be kind, exhaustive analysis, which has to constantly be freshened. If there's a powerful piece of video to fuel it, it's going to be repeated even more."

And as it turns out, the Scream was a phony from the beginning. As Diane Sawyer noted, Dean was using a mic that filters out crowd noise to heighten his voice. In reality, you could barely hear the Scream from the floor.

Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Alicia Ng

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