Whose news?

Whose news?

: There are two stories bubbling — as in boiling — on blogs that have gotten little (in one case) or no (in the other) attention from major media: the Eason Jordan story (hot on the right) and Jeff Gannon story (hot on the left). Are these stories? Yes. But what are the stories?

On Jordan, these are the stories I can catalogue:

1. What Jordan said.

Did Jordan say that American soldiers targeted journalists? If so, that is clearly news, clearly a scandal — a crime — that demands to be investigated and exposed.

But now Jordan says he didn’t say that soldiers knowingly targeted journalists as journalists. He says he was arguing with the characterization of their deaths as “collateral damage.” I can argue that snipers killing the wrong person is also “collateral damage.” But that seems to be beside the point.

If Jordan did say that soliders targeted jouranlists and now he recants, that still indicates something about his attitude toward the military. That is still a story.

If Jordan did not say this, then it’s up to bloggers to recant. Then the story isn’t about what Jordan says but what blogs said. But I don’t hear anyone saying Jordan said nothing; instead, it’s now about what he meant.

The only sure way to know what he said is to hear the tape and it’s scandalous if Davos does not release it; Jordan himself should demand it be released to get to the truth. If he does not, that, too, is news.

2. What soldiers did.

Did soldiers target jouranlists? If no one is arguing that, then that is the nonstory.

On Gannon, I’ve followed it far less, but it seems that there are two stories here:

1. What the White House did:

The argument on Media Matters and Kos and other sites has been that Gannon is a ringer put in the White House with a fake “news service” called Talon and that he only pitches softball questions and only repeats the official line. If the White House gamed the press corps in that way, that’s a story.

2. What bloggers did:

The bloggers went after Gannon personally, first trying to expose his real name and then his sex life. If Gannon is part of a homophobic organization and if he is gay, then that’s a story about hypocrisy. But is it a news story? I’m not comfortable with outing as news, for there was a time not long ago enough when revealing someone’s homosexuality was a story and a scandal and a crime when it should not have been; to use that sort of attack by innuendo for the other side — just because it’s for the other side — doesn’t make it right. So here, too, the bloggers end up as the story.

There are stories at least worth investigating about Jordan and Gannon. There are stories that come out of that about bloggers getting it right… or wrong. And there’s another story here:

1. What major media didn’t do:

Why isn’t major media covering the Jordan story at all? Why is it covering the Gannon story more?

There could be good reasons for not covering these stories — if reporters investigated them and, in good faith, found they didn’t pan out. But we don’t know whether that is happening.

This is why there needs to be transparency of process in news: If a story is investigated and rejected, that becomes news if the story is gaining credence elsewhere; that becomes a counterbalance. But then again, if the story is not investigated while it is gaining credence elsewhere, then that itself can become news. Why isn’t it being investigated?

To use another example, I did not think most of what the Swifties said about Kerry was news; I thought it was mainly mud. Others certainly disagreed. But if such allegations are false, if they are not a legitimate story, then I’ll concede that the best way to deal with them is not necessarily to ignore them but to reveal why they aren’t true and aren’t being covered.

In other words: Sometimes it’s news when news isn’t news.

If a news organization says, “We’re not giving you stories about Jordan … or Gannon … or the Swifties … or the National Guard memoes … because we looked into it and didn’t find anything to back it up,” then that is news.

This didn’t used to be the case, back in the days when news organizations were the gatekeepers, as I said yesterday: Then, news wasn’t news until they said it was news. But now everyone can say that something is news and it has become one of the jobs of journalism to say when that isn’t news. Now they need to say why. Now they need to be transparent in their process and reveal why they don’t cover what they don’t cover. Otherwise, the lack of coverage becomes news itself.

So one way or another, there is news in Jordan and Gannon that needs to be covered. The news is not supposed to be about the agenda, it’s supposed to be about getting to the truth. In both these stories, we’re not there yet.

: But, of course, sometimes a story isn’t a story because it just isn’t a story — it isn’t news, it isn’t true, it isn’t important.

The interesting challenge of this era is that nonstories can be elevated to story status simply by the attention they get.

: Rebecca MacKinnon says the Jordan story isn’t as black and white as it seems, nonetheless, she is disappointed that the story isn’t getting covered by journalists in Iraq or by CNN.