Posts from February 8, 2005

Eason Jordan makes the big time – and – The gates fall

Eason Jordan makes the big time – and – The gates fall

: In today’s Washington Post, Howard Kurtz (finally) reports on the Eason Jordan controversy and Jordan (finally) clarifies what he said in clearer words than his various emails.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. At first, said Frank, “it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists.” But Jordan later “modified” his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this “maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger. . . . He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing,” Frank said.

Jordan denied that last night, saying he had been responding to Frank’s comment that the 63 journalists who have been killed in Iraq were “collateral damage” in the war. “I was trying to make a distinction between ‘collateral damage’ and people who got killed in other ways,” Jordan said last night. “I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn’t as clear as I should have been on that panel.”

: Meanwhile, Jay Rosen sends an email to blogging friends (which I assume he’ll turn into a post soon) that talks about how bloggers filled out the story with journalism while the press remained silent. (Says Jay: “That is not necessarily bad that the press remains silent. If it’s a non-story, remaining NON is just fine.” I agree.) Sisyphus gets the WEF to admit it has a tape of Jordan’s comments and tries to get them to release it. He “commits an act of journalism in a shockingly simple way. Email the right guy.” Rebecca MacKinnon gives her account and gets Jordan to tell his side (though he made it a lot clearer by the time he got to Kurtz) and sets up a delicious tag to track the story. Jay gets the account of another witness, BBC boss Richard Sambrook. Michelle Malkin gets a statement from Barney Frank and another from David Gergen, more witnesses. Yes, there was a snitfit, a blogstorm — and until there was clarification, that’s what it takes sometimes. And there was also journalism. Both were pressure to get to the bottom of the story. Are we there yet?

: MORE…

: This is also about the speed of news. Back in the day of the news gatekeepers — now long gone, whether they know it or not — journalists could take their time reporting a story, for news wasn’t news until they said it was. And that wasn’t all bad: It allowed journalists to check facts, call sources, get it right.

But news got faster. All in all, that’s good; we’re informed faster.

But there are certainly issues. Witness the fog of war: Breaking News! We found a truck trailer that some expert says is used to make biological weapons. Later… Oh, nevermind, it’s used to make yogurt.

That’s an issue for the public; we have to learn to judge news better, to recognize that an early report can often be found to be a wrong report.

That’s also an issue for newsmakers: You can say something you didn’t mean to say or said in such a way that it is misinterpreted and your words will spread fast and so can the storms they cause. If you want to correct or clarify, there is no time to waste. Do it quickly and directly and talk to the people who are questioning you, the citizens.

And, obviously, this is an issue for news organizations: You can’t take your sweet time reporting a story anymore, for the citizens will get ahead of you even without your resources and access. You should still get it right and do what it takes to do that, of course. But if you care about the truth, then you’d better go hunting it faster.

And, by the way, you’re no longer the gatekeeper.

: And this is about the death of off-the-record at any event citizens attend. The WEF is now trying to decide whether the event was or wasn’t off the record. Doesn’t matter anymore, folks; that’s irrelevant. The citizens in the room haven’t agreed to play by your rules the way journalists have. If they hear something, they’ll repeat it. If Jordan had, in fact, said that journalists were targeted as journalists by soldiers — which he didn’t; just speaking in the hypothetical here — then how can anyone expect the citizens, the citizen journalists, the bloggers in the room to remain silent? They shouldn’t.

The off-the-record gate has also fallen.

: UPDATE: More comments and links from Kaus, Hewitt, and the king of the roundup: Gandelman.

: LATER: Ernie Miller asks good questions about whether it is ethical for journalists to agree to an off-the-record rule for such an event and whether it is ethical for a journalist to speak off-the-record at such an event.