Just Above Sunset
February 13, 2005 - Ah heck, stick to the narrative! Offend the most people the least.

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As mentioned in this week’s World's Laziest Journalist column, on Friday Eason Jordan resigned his position.  He was CNN’s chief news executive and led much of that network's war coverage.  Is seems that on January 27 in Davos, Switzerland, at The World Economic Forum, in an informal panel discussion, he suggested that US troops had targeted and killed journalists.  He immediately back-peddled and said that was what was being said in much of the Arab media, and he didn’t know that was so, but the damage was done.  Word got around.  The same right-wing blogs that claimed to have brought down Dan Rather sensed blood in the water, Fox News picked it up, and the fellow threw in the towel.  (Yes, there is a mix of shark and boxing metaphor there, but you get the idea.)


My local newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, carried the story here on Saturday morning.  There I discovered the panel discussion in question was one called to discuss "Will Democracy Survive the Media?" 


Yeah, but will the media survive the we’ll-destroy-you world of web logs and advocacy news organizations like Fox?


The Times mentions this too –


The World Economic Forum… has declined to release the transcript or videotape of the off-the-record session….

In a statement Jordan sent to his staff Friday, the CNN executive vice president cited "conflicting accounts" over his recent remarks as a threat to the news organization's credibility. In resigning, Jordan said he sought "to prevent CNN from being further tarnished by the controversy."


In short, who needs this kind of hassle?

The hassle?


In a commentary in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, a member of the paper's editorial board who had attended the session, described the exchange. "Mr. Jordan observed that of the 60-odd journalists killed in Iraq, 12 had been targeted and killed by U.S. forces," Stephens wrote.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had shared the Davos stage with Jordan as a panelist, told the Washington Post that the CNN executive at first implied "it was official military policy to take out journalists." After other panelists challenged him, Jordan then "modified" his remarks, Frank said, but did not remove the sense that U.S. soldiers intended to harm those they knew to be journalists.


But there is no transcript.


But more detail was carried by the New York Times here.


… the panel's moderator, David Gergen … said in an interview last night that Mr. Jordan had initially spoken of soldiers, "on both sides," who he believed had been "targeting" some of the more than four dozen journalists killed in Iraq.


Almost immediately after making that assertion, Mr. Jordan… "quickly walked that back to make it clear that there was no policy on the part of the U.S. government to target or injure journalists," Mr. Gergen said.


Too late.  Heck, it seems Bret Stephens, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board who attended the session in Davos, later wrote that Jordan had "made a defamatory innuendo" but added: "Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making."


There’s a backhanded bit of pseudo-graciousness!


None of it mattered.  There was the web and the commentators -


There is, for example, the website - Easongate.com – which acted as a clearing house for all the rants about Jordan and CNN – and it links to twenty-five other sites that called for blood – from Roger L. Simon to Red State Rant and Winds of Change.  Easongate.com on Friday posted this –

"To every reader, commentator, emailer and blogger that committed to this cause, thank you," the statement said. "This is a victory for every soldier who has honorably served this nation."


Yeah, whatever.  


And what of Eason?


While at CNN, Jordan also had provoked many activists and critics in an April 2003 opinion piece in the New York Times. Jordan asserted that he sometimes could not allow his network to report all it had learned during the intense early days of combat in Iraq, for fear that releasing certain confidential information would put lives in jeopardy.

In September 2003, a corporate restructuring at CNN resulted in a job change for Jordan, who no longer oversaw the day-to-day news gathering operations. Recently, he has been responsible for orchestrating the network's overseas coverage.

A 23-year veteran of the network, Jordan had participated in and overseen much of the network's round-the-clock coverage of combat zones.

In his farewell letter Friday, he cited many decades of close contact he had had with the military while reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.

Jordan began his CNN career in the network's early years, after having worked for local news outlets in Atlanta.


Regular Just Above Sunset contributor Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, knows him well.  Rick and his wife and Eason Jordan were in from the start.


Times change.


Oh yeah – go here for a compilation of names of journalists killed in Iraq by United States troops, twelve of whom this guy says might well have been killed on purpose.  Or is that executed?  There’s something there.  Jordan wasn’t making things up, but he needs to remember that if he senses a story people don’t want to hear, even mentioning it casually, then qualifying it a bit, can end your career. 


Nosing around something no one else has covered is something no good newsman does?  Ah heck, stick to the narrative.  People want to believe what they want to believe, so report that.  And keep your job.


What my brother once said about the restaurant business – and he had a good twenty-sever year run at that – is probably true of the news business.  Offend the most people the least.  That may be the secret of success.






Note: In the companion piece to this - Press Scandal Right – we see the right wing bloggers are crowing over forcing Jeff Gannon to quit Talon News and give up his plum White House assignment.  He appears to have been a ringer in the press conferences, the reporter who asks the softball question so the administration doesn’t have to get hammered with the real, hard questions.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....