The Line Forms to the Left and Right

Will Collier’s excellent Saturday post (“Pay No Attention To The Arrogance Behind The Curtain“) generated some outstanding discussion in the comments.


One of the better ones was from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Steve Lovelady, who edits their blog. Answering another person’s questions, Steve writes:

In order of your points:

1 — We are not talking about “news reports” aired by CNN here. We are talking about interpretations of one man’s offhand comments at a supposedly off-the-record session where people were encouraged to think out loud.
Have you seen any “news reports” on CNN asserting the worst of what Eason Jordan is alleged to have said ? I haven’t.

2 –In the 2003 New York Times op-ed piece written by Jordan in 2003, he did not ” admit that CNN had decided not to broadcast stories unflattering to the Iraqi government during the time Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein.”

He did admit that he had withheld individual stories on specific atrocities precisely for fear that airing them would be the equivalent of a death sentence for his people in Saddam’s Iraq. And he expressed relief that finally these stories could and would come out.

Which, when you think about it, is one with his concerns at Davos about the crossfire in Iraq, which has taken the lives of 36 reporters, 11 by friendly fire, if you accept the research of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

As for “honesty and integrity,” there is nothing of either to be found on most attacks on Jordan.

Bloodlust, yes. Honesty and integrity, I’m still looking for those.

And yes, I consider it a lynch mob. Even more so after reading today’s posts. (Do a search for the word “gloat” in this thread alone.)

Your questions are entirely legitimate; I hope this addresses them.


Whether you agree with Lovelady or not, the guy knows how to make his case. (Me, I wasn’t so interested in the Jordan Affair. “Silly man says silly things to silly people at a silly conference? And he works for CNN?” I was so shocked, you could have knocked me over with a wrecking ball.) Reader Frank Rachelle, however, cared a bit more and replied to Lovelady thoughtfully:

With all due respect I am absolutely stunned that Mr. Lovelady, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editor and current editor of Columbia Journalism Review would make the kind of comments he’s making here.

Sir, let’s suppose you were still an editor at the Inquirer and you were faced with this possible story:

A blogger from the New York Times writes that Donald Rumsfeld has made a statement at an international event that “we have to torture terrorists to get information” The statement is made at what is supposed to be an off-the-record event.

But now it’s out there.

What would you do? Would you task any of your reporters to check out the story or not?

Now let’s go one step further, same scenario. There’s no transcript or tape of Rumsfeld available, but numerous credible witnesses, including a Republican U.S. Senator and a conservative Republican congressman have verified the story, on the record, at Daily Kos and Atrios’ blogs.

Would you get your reporters on the story now?

Next you find out that there is a TAPE available of Rumsfeld’s remarks. But the event organizer won’t release it and the DoD is issuing backpedaling statements about Rumsfeld’s comments.

Now what? Would the Inquirer demand that the event sponsors release the tape? Would you insist that the DoD release all information about the remarks?

But let’s say you did NONE of these things and passed on the story.

Then Rumsfeld resigns, without your paper ever running a story during the heat of the controversy.

Do you think that CJR would write that your paper did a great job on the story?

Do you think the editor of CJR would complain that Daily Kos and Atrios were a “lynch mob” read by “salivating morons” because they broke the story?

Do you think CJR would lament that Rumsfeld was taken down by a bunch of “Lilliputians”?

Or would you be worried that your paper, and all the others who sat on the story, would be ripped by CJR for being so incompetent as to get beat by a bunch of bloggers?

It’ll be really interesting to see how CJR covers this latest failure by major media to report a story on one of its own.

But I think the outline for it is already prepped. Just like Corey Pein’s absurd essay last month on Rathergate, it isn’t hard to guess how CJR will cover the Eason story. Bloggers are bad, they’re not pros, a great journalist is ruined over nothing, etc. etc…

If you ever wonder why respect for journalists keeps collapsing, you’ve got a great example in the Eason Jordan story. I’ll be fascinated to see what you do with it.


Frank’s given us a great “shoe on other foot” example by which to measure the media’s non-response to Jordan. I was hoping Lovelady would come back to reply to Rachelle, and he did:

I’ve been away from the keyboard for a while — it’s called having a life — but I see that the hyenas are still munching away at the bones.

No surprise there.

Anyway, it’s been swell, guys. I have to admit, Will lured me in with his comments on my e-mail to Jay Rosen, I fell for the bait, and thus I ended up impetuously scooping my own website by posting my intial thoughts here.

I should have known I was wandering into a universe where it was one against the hordes. That’s the signature of all too many poliblogs, on the right and on the left, and why should this one be any different — self-congratulatory, self-referential closed loops of mutual backpatting, and if a stranger should happen to stroll in with an alternative world view, out come the blowtorches.

But in a way, it was worth the trip — sort of like Alice slipping through the mirror into Wonderland. At first, all you see seems strange and wondrous, upside down, backwards, inside out — but eventually the novelty wears off. (BTW, my apologies to the 35 of 47 e-mailers that I failed to answer…but that too grows redundant.)
Before I go, however, I do want to correct three small but nagging factual errors embedded in this thread.

— I am not a professor. (That’ll be the day…)

–Those of you who think Ted Turner has any control over, influence at, or ownership of, CNN are nine years out of date. The hapless Turner got paved over about three minutes after CNN was swallowed up by Time Warner in 1996.

— And Andrew Sullivan, having never done it, knows about as much about writing a news story as I know about being an astronaut.

Bye now.

I hear I’m needed on the other side of the mirror.


Ladies and gentlemen, what you’ve just witnessed is the modern MSM in action. It’s excellent at making its points forcefully, but when challenged, it spews insults and avoids the issue.

So far, blogs have helped bring down Trent Lott, Howell Raines, Dan Rather, and now Eason Jordan. Who on the other side of the mirror wants to be next?


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