Tuesday, 8 February 2005

All Things Come

...to He Who Waits.

Hmmmm. I'm not sure that's always true.

But in one case, maybe it is. And maybe not. The case is that of CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan.

An absolute age ago in Internet time (about a fortnight), Mr Jordan was unwise enough as to forget who his audience was at the World Economic Forum. Not a cosy coterie of the chattering classes, but people who represent a broad spectrum of opinion. People who wouldn't take his words as Gospel, but would fact-check his posterior.

From WorldNetDaily (not exactly an unopinionated or CNN-supportive site) :
In the "late edition" of the New York Times on April 11, 2003, Jordan was confessing on the editorial pages as to how he had been irresponsible and dishonest in his attempts to cover the news all the years that CNN had been the only "news" bureau allowed into Baghdad under the post-Gulf War Saddam era.
If you read the article (that's why I gave the hyperlink - so you could check for yourself), you'll see that the precis is objectively true. But that's old news. What's interesting is what Mr Jordan had to say more recently.
Here's how one eyewitness recorded the account at last week's 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 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.
Other eyewitness accounts confirm the facts of the matter.
This story has been all over the blogosphere since immediately after the events described above. Yet if all you rely on is mainstream media for your news, you almost certainly won't have heard about it.

I regularly contribute to The Command Post, a news blog about Iraq (and other matters) with a fairly large readership.

Here's a quote of the rules about posting on it :
2. All items must have a professional news source and, when possible, a link.
3. Do not post information from other blogs unless you link that blog and they cited a credible media source. Cite and link both: "Instapundit reports that CNN is saying..."
So, after seeing the initial reports, I waited for such a blockbusting story to break in a credible news source - other than a blog. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, may patience was rewarded. Two pieces, one in an editorial in Toledo, Ohio, another in an Editorial in the Washington Times.

Interesting that editorials could be written about events that hadn't actually been reported in the news section.

But it now appears that Mainstraem Media's voluntary Vow of Silence over the matter may be about to break, big time.

CNN went to the extent of e-mailing various bloggers shortly after the event :
Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan’s remarks out of context. Eason Jordan does not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists. Mr. Jordan simply pointed out the facts: While the majority of journalists killed in Iraq have been slain at the hands of insurgents, the Pentagon has also noted that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. The Pentagon has apologized for those actions. Mr. Jordan was responding to an assertion by Cong. Frank that all 63 journalist victims had been the result of “collateral damage.”
Why not a press release? Because how could they make a press release about something that they weren't reporting?

Meanwhile the assertions by CNN have both been partly supported and challenged by various eye-witnesses. I won't include URLs : the links above should be enough to get you to the various eyewitness accounts.

The whole thing was video-taped. Yet the tape isn't being released, because everything was "off the record". Off the record, yet very obviously being recorded. And there's this little gem :
...many of us at Davos believed the session was on the record because it was conducted in a room called Sanada 1&2. Here are the official guidelines issued to media and potential bloggers before Davos began:
"On and Off the Record" Policy for AM 2005

All plenary sessions are fully "on" the record.

All sessions that are broadcast or webcast are "on the record" (for 2005 that means all sessions in the Congress Hall or Sanada 1 and 2)

Every other session is only "on the record" in terms of content. That is to say what was said can be reported : but it must not be attributed to any individual. However, should the journalist get the agreement of any participant to be quoted that is of course acceptable.

Naturally, all private meetings are off the record.

This policy is clear and simple and allows greater transparency. It can also be very simply and effectively enforced. Any transgression will lead to immediate withdrawal of badge and any future access to World Economic Forum events.
Clear enough? Except there was this response by Mark Adams, from the WEF :
My understanding was that since this session was not webcast or broadcast it was 'off the record'

Certainly, no announcement was made at the begining of the session - as far as I remember - that it would be on the record.

In any case - a session summary is available on our website and we will not be trying to get a transcript of the session.
The session summary doesn't mention anything about the US Army targetting journalists. Nada. Zip. As for the tape record? For internal use only, to help improve things next time. Such recordings are quite normal for many meetings, though none that I'm aware of where the Chatham House Rule is in force. But they could be telling the truth here.

Of course, if all you read is in the Australian Media, you probably haven't heard how the CBS network used forged papers dating from the 70's, but provably generated using a post-2000 version of Microsoft Word, to try to swing the US election Kerry's way (Rathergate). Nor that they're still saying that the documents "can't be authenticated", not that they're obvious fakes. So don't expect a report about CNN's News editor (allegedly) uttering demonstrably false anti-US propaganda to get reported either.

They're far too busy reporting more important stuff - like this.

UPDATE : Storm in a teacup, perhaps? Well, in breaking news, there's this, from the New York Sun :
This is not the first time that Mr. Jordan has spoken critically of the American military's conduct toward journalists. In November, he reportedly told a gathering of global news executives in Portugal called News Xchange that he believed journalists had been arrested and tortured by American forces.

And in October 2002, at a News Xchange conference, he accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting CNN personnel "on numerous occasions."

Mr. Jordan's remarks might have shocked the American attendees, but they certainly played well among some in the audience. The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, who covered the panel for his paper, told the Sun that after the panel concluded, Mr. Jordan was surrounded by European and Middle Eastern attendees who warmly congratulated him for his alleged "bravery and candor" in discussing the matter.
"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action." as Ian Fleming's Arch-Villain Auric Goldfinger once said.

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