Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Wall Street Journal Takes A Step Back........


Any regular reader of this site will know that I like to quote from articles from the Journal, and appreciate the bias that they duly expose in their paper. This bias of course, being towards "Free Markets and Free People" as they quote continually. Due to this bias they come off with a conservative republican stance most of the time, and it is reflected in the tone of the editorial page. They do however, give liberal democrats a chance to voice their opinions as well, and they also criticize Bush and other Republicans whenever they fall out of line of their bias. Until his recent departure, you could rely on the editorialist Al Hunt to bash Bush and stump for Kerry every thursday on the back page. The Journal also gives other democrats many oppurtunites to voice their dissenting opinions of Bush's policies. That's why I prefer the journal over say the New York Times, or the Tennesean, as the other two tend to try and hide their obvious bias, and don't give enough space to dissenting opnions from their bias.

Which leads me to the title of this post, and what happened recently at the Journal in regards to the Eason Jordan/CNN scandal. As many of you may or may not know, CNN's Chief News Executive Eason Jordan made some unacceptable remarks at the Davos Forum claiming knowledge of 12 journalists who had been targeted and killed by U.S. military forces. When Rep. Barney Frank, who was also on the panel challenged Jordan to exaplin further, Jordan tried to defuse the situation yet still claimed that "some people" believe the military has it in for journalists. One is to assume that Mr Jordan is one of those people? We may never know because the owners of the video tapes of the forum refuse to release the tapes. The journal wrote an editorial on Monday somewhat defending Jordan, and even worse, disparaging the blogosphere for trying to scalp another Big Media figure.

An excerpt from the article-

The writers of these columns believe that, in addition to having opinions, we are ultimately in the same information business as the rest of the press corps. Which is why we try to break news whenever we can if a story merits the attention.

So it was only normal for our Bret Stephens to report a January 27 panel discussion he attended at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during which CNN's Eason Jordan appeared to say--before he tried to unsay it--that U.S. troops had deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq. Mr. Stephens's story appeared the next day in our Political Diary, an e-mail newsletter for subscribers that is part of this Web site. It is the first account by any news organization of what has come to be known as Easongate.

By now, everyone on the Good Ship Earth knows that this particular story ended Friday with Mr. Jordan's abrupt resignation from CNN. This has certain pundits chirping delightedly. It has been a particular satisfaction to the right wing of the so-called "blogosphere," the community of writers on the Web that has pushed the Eason story relentlessly and sees it as the natural sequel to the Dan Rather fiasco of last year.

How about the non-right wing part of the blogosphere? Shouldn't they be happy that Eason got called out too? What about the soldiers and their families? Aren't they glad that this moron got what he deserved for making such destructive and unsubstantiated comments about the people RISKING THEIR DAMN LIFE so that he can run CNN? The next paragraph gets the Old Media wagons a circling-

But Easongate is not Rathergate. Mr. Rather and his CBS team perpetrated a fraud during a prime-time news broadcast; stood by it as it became obvious that the key document upon which their story was based was a forgery, and accused the whistleblowers of the very partisanship they themselves were guilty of. Mr. Rather still hasn't really apologized.

As for Mr. Jordan, he initially claimed that U.S. forces in Iraq had targeted and killed 12 journalists. Perhaps he intended to offer no further specifics in order to leave an impression of American malfeasance in the minds of his audience, but there is no way of knowing for sure. What we do know is that when fellow panelist Representative Barney Frank pressed Mr. Jordan to be specific, the CNN executive said he did not believe it was deliberate U.S. government policy to target journalists. Pressed further, Mr. Jordan could only offer that "there are people who believe there are people in the military who have it out" for journalists, and cite two examples of non-lethal abuse of journalists by ordinary GIs. None of this does Mr. Jordan credit. Yet the worst that can reasonably be said about his performance is that he made an indefensible remark from which he ineptly tried to climb down at first prompting. This may have been dumb but it wasn't a journalistic felony.

If it was just a "dumb comment", then why did Eason resign? Could it be perhaps because this is not the first time he has made these allegations? You wouldn't know from the Journal's article, but it ceratinly was not.
November 2004 Guardian story
"Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces. "

Back to the Journal article, and this final stanza where the journal disappointed me in a very big way-

More troubling to us is that Mr. Jordan seems to have "resigned," if in fact he wasn't forced out, for what hardly looks like a hanging offense. It is true that Mr. Jordan has a knack for indefensible remarks, including a 2003 New York Times op-ed in which he admitted that CNN had remained silent about Saddam's atrocities in order to maintain its access in Baghdad. That really was a firing offense. But CNN stood by Mr. Jordan back then--in part, one suspects, because his confession implicated the whole news organization. Now CNN is throwing Mr. Jordan overboard for this much slighter transgression, despite faithful service through his entire adult career.

That may be old-fashioned damage control. But it does not speak well of CNN that it apparently allowed itself to be stampeded by this Internet and talk-show crew. Of course the network must be responsive to its audience and ratings. But it has other obligations, too, chief among them to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.

No doubt this point of view will get us described as part of the "mainstream media." But we'll take that as a compliment since we've long believed that these columns do in fact represent the American mainstream. We hope readers buy our newspaper because we make grown-up decisions about what is newsworthy, and what isn't.

This condescending attitude that only the "mainstream media" can tell what is newsworthy and what isn't is precisely why the blogoshpere has been lopping media heads in this country lately. And I am distrubed that the Journals editorial board doesn't seem to recognize this, and instead plays damage control for CNN and Jordan.

To its credit however, today the journal prints some letters to the editor that thrash this piece and rightfully so-

Let's Hear What Eason Jordan Really Said

Your Feb. 14 editorial "The Jordan Kerfuffle" argues that CNN news director Eason Jordan might have been forced out "for what hardly looks like a hanging offense."

Not a hanging offense? Here's a guy who is obviously eager to believe the worst about the soldiers fighting in Iraq. What kind of a mindset is this for someone who is in charge of a huge, powerful media outlet? Isn't he supposed to at least give the GIs the benefit of the doubt? How does he differ from John Kerry ranting before Congress about atrocities in Vietnam that he had been "told about."

Dave M. O'Neill
New York

This was not the first time Mr. Jordan made such accusations about the military targeting journalists (apparently to a group of international journalists last fall). Moreover, in 2003, he drew some attention (as you point out) following the announcement that he had information about Iraqi plans to murder high officials, but did not release the information in order to protect CNN personnel. To my knowledge, none of these accusations have ever been substantiated. The pattern that emerges seems to be one of reckless disregard of a newsman's fiduciary responsibility to present information in a truthful manner, vetted as thoroughly as possible, and without bias -- personal, political or social.

Albert B. Murphy III
West Conshohocken, Pa.

Et tu, WSJ? Et tu?

Richard Palmer
San Francisco

You fail to point out the failure of the mainstream media to cover this story; you fail to point out that if this is in fact an overreaction by the bloggers, it could be cleared up if the Davos Forum released the tape/transcript; you fail to recognize that Eason Jordan's resignation might be evidence that perhaps the bloggers are right; and you fall into the liberal trap of labeling bloggers "right wing."

Benny Simpson

Your editorial strikes me as passing strange coming from a newspaper I trust. What are your minimum standards for a scandal? Is it Dan Rather's attempt to influence a presidential election with forged documents? That seems pretty high for a minimum.

It certainly is newsworthy if a high executive of a world-wide news organization repeatedly states before international gatherings, comprised of many who hate the U.S., that our military is targeting journalists. And he's doing this during war time!

The dispute could be resolved, perhaps, were you to add your voice to the many others calling for the release of the tape of the latest incident. But your editorial does not even evince curiosity.

Ernest Marraccini
Elizabeth, Pa

Pay very close attention to yet another excellent cartoon today from the always on target Cox and Forkum-

Pajamas at the Gate

I say it again, the media and the government can only ignore the blogosphere at their own peril.

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