When a new audio recording from Osama bin Laden surfaced Tuesday afternoon,
Fox News Channel was the first U.S. network to air it -- giving it breaking-news
treatment -- while Cable News Network and MSNBC cautiously, or timidly, depending on whom you
ask, waited for translations.
All eventually aired the audio, or pieces of it,
with file video and stills of bin Laden.
News of this latest bin Laden tape broke Tuesday after Secretary of State
Colin Powell mentioned it in a briefing before Congress.
Arab news channel Al Jazeera was the first to air the 16-minute recording.
Fox News then aired the tape in the midafternoon with an English translation
"There was no indication from the administration that it could present a
security concern," Fox News senior vice president of news and editorial
John Moody said. "Its importance was unquestionable. It was the news of the day."
CNN and MSNBC, meanwhile, held back, dispatching translators to work through
the material first.
After Sept. 11, when numerous bin Laden recordings surfaced, the Bush
administration asked news executives to screen tapes
for possible signals and coded messages.
Since then, CNN spokesman Matt Furman said, the network's policy has remained
to screen and translate recordings first.
"We carefully review [tapes] using our own translators for newsworthy
elements and report the newsworthy elements only," Furman said.
Moody said Powell's mention of the tape and the fact that Powell
had seen a transcript negated those concerns.
"When the secretary of state speaks before Congress and says there could be a
link between al Qaeda and Iraq, that's news," he added.
Moody added that if the latest recording had been a video, Fox News would
likely have screened it before putting it on the air.