The media buzz over the rising power of Internet weblogs (the "blogs") reached a new crescendo when CNN's chief of newsgathering, Eason Jordan, resigned over sloppy charges he made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
When Congressman Barney Frank suggested at the conference that journalists dying in Iraq have been "collateral damage," Jordan objected. On the forum's own weblog, journalist Rony Abovitz reported that Jordan "asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-U.S. crowd) and cause great strain on others."
If these charges were true, they would make Abu Ghraib's naked pyramids pale by comparison. But they were wild and reckless accusations, which explains Jordan's subsequent, furious backpedaling and denials. Still, it begs the question: Why would a man whose profession and expertise was "newsgathering" make such wild charges without evidence? Jordan quickly drew angry objections from fellow panelist Frank, as well as a condemnation from Sen. Chris Dodd. When you're outraging Frank and Dodd, you're really putting yourself out on an extreme limb.
But then Jordan and CNN added to the outrage by refusing any attempts to release a transcript or videotape of the off-the-record panel discussion. What a spectacle: a news outlet always championing the public's "right to know" and crusading for "full disclosure" clamping down like the stereotypical arrogant multinational corporation they like to expose. Richard Nixon, meet Eason Jordan. Does anyone believe that if President Bush (or Vice President Cheney or Secretary Rumsfeld or fill in the blank) claimed in an off-the-record forum overseas that Ted Kennedy was a murderer, that CNN wouldn't be in the front of the line demanding that the administration release the videotape?
The controversy was deepened by the fact that Jordan already carried heavy baggage on this issue. He admitted to the world in 2003 that CNN kept a lid on news exposing the horror of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime to maintain its access to Iraq and preserve the lives of its staffers there. CNN plays the same shut-up-for-access-to-dictators game with its Havana bureau to this day.
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