The situation was modified, somewhat, by the major papers’ end-of-day accounts. The NYT story portrays Lieberman as the key actor in this drama, and as quite pleased with himself; it also notes his apparent reversal on the subject of a Medicare buy-in. The Wall Street Journal follows a similar, if less colorful, approach. The Post’s article, meanwhile, doesn’t mention Lieberman until the seventh paragraph of his story, and makes no mention of his prior support for the Medicare program.
Even accounting for those stories, a reader of one, or all, of the major papers had a strikingly different experience than a reader of the leading Web outlets. (In particular, even in their main stories the papers pay scant attention to the question of White House intervention, which was a major topic on the Internet.) The reasons for that are understandable—both Joe Lieberman and the public option are subjects of intense interest among liberals, so this story was in the HuffPo/TPM wheelhouse; the intrigue about the White House’s message to Capitol Hill, meanwhile, was up Politico’s alley. And this is a case where more information may be a barrier to understanding; the nugget about Emanuel’s directive to Reid, while newsworthy if true, is also the sort of thing that can feed conspiracy theories about the White House’s role and obscure real accountability.
With all those caveats in place, though, Monday was a big day in the health care debate, one in which the months-long battle over the public option may have been resolved. It was a time of heightened interest for many, many partisan observers who feel a stake in the outcome, and a time when key decisions were being made. And for that day, at least, it was the newcomers who responded to readers’ hunger for news.