Monday, February 14, 2005

Are Blogs Adding Increasing Accountability or Mob Mentality To The Media World?

(Some of this is old news here. I did this summary at AlwaysOn with the assumption that many of the readers there didn't know the full history)

As you might have read, CNN's news chief, Eason Jordan, resigned due to pressure from the blogosphere after his reckless comments at the World Economic Forum:

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US 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-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters.

Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real "sh--storm". What intensified the problem was the fact that the session was a public forum being taped on camera, in front of an international crowd. The other looming shadow on what was going on was the presence of a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator in the middle of some very serious accusations about the U.S. military.

This spread over the blogosphere where it was confirmed and discussed in various forums with a roundup at Michelle Malkin's blog here and more on Congressman Barney Frank's reaction here.

Today's NY Times article, "Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs," brings some good points to think about:

Edward Morrissey, Captain's Quarters: "The moral of the story: the media can't just cover up the truth and expect to get away with it - and journalists can't just toss around allegations without substantiation and expect people to believe them anymore."
Mr. Jarvis said bloggers should keep their real target in mind. "I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth," he cautioned.
Some on line were simply trying to make sense of what happened. "Have we entered an era where our lives can be destroyed by a pack of wolves hacking at their keyboards with no oversight, no editors, and no accountability?" asked a blogger named Mark Coffey, 36, who says he works as an analyst in Austin, Tex. "Or does it mean that we've entered a brave new world where the MSM has become irrelevant," he asked, using blogger shorthand for mainstream media.
Mr. Abovitz, who started it all, said he hoped bloggers could develop loftier goals than destroying people's careers. "If you're going to do this open-source journalism, it should have a higher purpose," he said. "At times it did seem like an angry mob, and an angry mob using high technology, that's not good."

WHILE NOW there are attacks and questions on the role of the blogosphere and bloggers, I agree with Michelle Malkin's NY Post op-ed, "REALNEWS.COM," that it was Eason's own irresponsible statements and the lack of responsibility of some journalists who purposely ignored its significance that led to this outcome:

For their fine efforts, these citizen bloggers are being attacked as "morons" and "bible-thumping knuckledraggers" and "hounds" by nervous media nellies aghast at the sight of unwashed amateurs beating down effete journalism's gates. Meanwhile, CNN continues to spin.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson insists there's no dispute over what Jordan said. Yet, in a statement Jordan himself sent to his staff Friday, Jordan cited "conflicting accounts" over his remarks as a threat to CNN's credibility. Which is it?

Former CNN News Group Chairman Walter Isaacson took the opportunity to sneer at "talk-show and blogging folks" for not doing "frontline reporting" (as opposed to the rumor-mongering Jordan engaged in at Davos?). And former CNN News Group Chairman Tom Johnson, who had been Jordan's mentor, decried what he called "unjustified and almost irrational attacks on Eason's character."

The only unjustified and irrational attacks on display here are the ones against the bloggers who called on Eason Jordan to account for his words and actions. The MSM better get used to the sound of bloghounds baying. This revolution can't be unplugged.

Imagine if Jordan's statement went unchallenged and taken as truth? What effect would it have on the morale of our troops? And a further battering of America's image abroad? I'm not gloating about Eason Jordan's resignation and I'm not certain if it was necessary, but I wasn't happy about his reckeless words either. I glad there was someone in the blogosphere at Davos to keep his words in check.

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