A headline in the Pakistan “Daily Times” reads “CNN ends up with `much egg on its face.” Yesterday, I mentioned that — after providing blanket coverage of the imminent capture of al-Qaida’s #2 man al-Zawahiri (which has not occurred and is unlikely to do so) — CNN abruptly dropped the story and barely mentioned it for hours. The background on what happened is an instructive glimpse into the media’s mindset and the influence it exerts. Aaron Brown — CNN’s lead anchor and host of NewsNight With Aaron Brown — was in Pakistan to cover US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “anniversary” visit when the opportunity to interview President Pervez Musharraf arose. Musharraf told Brown about a military operation in South Waziristan, stating that the resistance being offered suggested militants might be defending a “high-value target.” He said it was “very likely” the possible target had been surrounded. Sensing they had a global exclusive — the biggest story since the capture of Saddam Hussein — CNN ran with it, sensationalizing both the form and substance. Suddenly, al-Zawarhiri by name was surrounded and about to be captured any moment, thus raising worldwide expectations and tensions. (Note the contrast between Thursday’s article from CNN and one today on the same matter.) As events unfolded and non-US media began to comment, it became clear that nothing about the battle was “imminent” and fierce conflict might rage for days or weeks. And, so, in live satellite broadcasts, Brown began to backpedal, lowering time expectations. It became unclear that al-Zawahiri was still among the besieged or ever had been there. And, so, top news executives at CNN exerted fast control. No retractions. Just bury the story as though it had not been reported. It was a blunder of Biblical proportions that made the world a little more nervous and news a lot more untrustworthy.