Melinda Henneberger hosted a video discussion of the question at Politics Daily. In the discussion, Walter Shapiro says,
I really wish there were a gatekeepers. I really wish there were some way to say there are things that aren't news and they should be ignored. I would've gambled on this one. I would not have covered it...Watch the whole video here.
Brooke Gladstone, discussing journalist's behavior in this story for NPR, writes,
We love crazies — they pull in audiences like a tractor beam. Even the mildly aberrant — say, a runaway bride — can dominate news cycles for days. But there was much more to the story of Pastor Jones. He is the fun-house mirror reflection of a certain segment of Americans. To politicians accused of racism or intolerance, he provided cover — “we would never do that.” To the world outside, he offered confirmation of what they believed they already knew.
The problem for journalists was that in this political season, the story grew like a snowball rolling down a hill, and we have to take some responsibility for pushing it. The media, awash in controversy over the so-called ground zero mosque, smelled a pungent parable in the pastor’s tale.Check out more thoughts on the topic at the New York Times' Room for Debate blog.
Also, check out:
Michael Gerson, "The Internet: Enabling Pastor Terry Jones and crazies everywhere." Washington Post, September 14, 2010.
Responses to the Jones threat were understandable at every stage -- understandable for a competitive media to cover, for a concerned general to confront, for a president to clarify America's commitment to tolerance. But overall, the reaction was a terrible mistake. The idea that an unbalanced pastor with an Internet connection and a poster can cause our nation's highest military and civilian leaders to respond is an invitation to global crackpotocracy -- rule by the most creative and outrageous lunatics.