The news judgment of the public

The news judgment of the public

: Howard Kurtz’ Washington Post story is up. He says:

Several CNN staffers say Jordan was eased out by top executives who had lost patience with both the controversy and the continuing published gossip about Jordan’s personal life after a marital breakup. Jordan’s authority already had been greatly reduced after a management shakeup.


As of yesterday, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today had not carried a staff-written story, and the CBS, NBC and ABC nightly news programs had not reported the matter. It was discussed on several talk shows on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC but not on CNN.

And then there’s this curious line:

Even as he said he had misspoken at an international conference in suggesting that coalition troops had “targeted” a dozen journalists and insisted he never believed that, Jordan was being pounded hourly by bloggers, liberals as well as conservatives, who provided the rocket fuel for a story that otherwise might have fizzled.

Not sure what he means by that. Is he saying it’s a nonstory made a story by pounding bloggers? Well, major media thought so. But apparently, CNN did not.

I would have to think that this morning, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, CBS, NBC and ABC … and CNN … are or should be embarrassed that they are reporting the dramatic climax of a story they never told their readers about.

The news judgment of the professionals meets the news judgment of the public. And they sure as hell aren’t the same.

: And on Kurtz himself…

An unnamed commenter in the post below says:

Incredibly, Jeff doesn’t think Kurtz’s conflict-of-interest matters.

Maybe the Post should let Kurtz keep his CNN job, but the paper needs to assign all CNN-related stores to other reporters. I don’t understand why Jeff disagrees, especially given Kurtz’s pathetic track record tidying up Eason Jordan’s blunders.

And I reply:

Well, Howard Kurtz was the ONLY reporter or critic in big media to write about this. He may not have written about it the way you wanted — no one will ever agree on everything — and he may not have done it as fast we bloggers think he should have, but he did write about it and, as he (and I) say here, the other big media outlets should be embarrassed today that they are reporting the end of the story without ever reporting the beginning of it. The Post made Kurtz’ relationship clear.

If we’re going to demand transparency of journalists (and bloggers), we can’t then say that you can’t talk about anything with which you have a relationship. Rebecca MacKinnon said she worked for and admired Eason Jordan and yet she did very good reporting and commentary on this. Kurtz works for two media outlets but, again, he was the only one to write this story.

The point of transparency is that people will tell us their interests and connections and we can then judge them accordingly. You can still judge Kurtz harshly or you can be impressed that he was the one guy to report this: Your choice. And that’s the point.

I’m not defending Kurtz here. I’m defending a position I found myself in at Time Inc. At the end of the day, it was my personal integrity that made me do the right thing in the face of corporate pressure. Because of that pressure, I left the company and the magazine I started. I gave up three years’ salary, bonus and benefits because I would not sign the editors’ contract that would have required me to keep quiet about my time there. Unfortunately, no one wanted to story anyway. But I can tell you the price of that transparency down to the penny.

And you can bet Eason Jordan will (finally) be discussed on CNN tomorrow morning.

: LATER: Timothy Karr writes:

The problem is that much of the story was driven by those seeking to score political points. The new and accurate information that they often uncover is just a byproduct of the witch hunt. This controversy mounted as mainstream news reporters fed off the blogs; their resulting mainstream coverage stoked the ranting pundits on the endless cable talk shows. This media storm then spun back into the blogosphere, which ratcheted the frenzy up another notch . And so on.

The left got their trophy head on Tuesday, now the right’s hoisting theirs. Meanwhile the public cynicism about journalism grows. Perhaps the biggest victim in all of this is the credibility of those many reporters who do do honest work.

As I said below, I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth.

We don’t want to be positioned as the news lynch mob — which is where a radio interview yesterday tried to go — but as the press of the people. Of course, big media can be a lynch mob, too. But that doesn’t mean it’s an example we should follow.

In the case of Jordan, I don’t know what a poll would show but I don’t think that most people were necessarily after his head; they wanted his admission and his apology. In the case of Gannon, bloggers certainly were after his head — that is, getting him out of the press room — but I, among others, think the stretch into his past lives only reinforces the lynch mob image.

There are two followups to the Jordan story: First, again, we still want that tape. Second, someone at CNN has to explain why he’s gone and I doubt it’s only because of this flap alone.


: Michele Malkin has a good roundup.

: A commenter is right: I need to give major props to Rep. Barney Frank. As Kaus says: “It should also be noted that the controversy was kept alive not just by blogs, but by the refusal of a relatively liberal Democrat, Barney Frank, to sweep it under the rug in gentlemanly fashion.”

: WHAT LIBERAL BLOGOSPHERE? I wrote about both l’affaire Eason and l’affaire Gannon. I just went to liberal blogs — Atrios, Kos, MyDD, and – cough – Alterman — and find nothing about Eason. Major media outlets listed by Kurtz, below, also said nothing about Eason until he quit.

: Micah Sifry says that even with “Jeff Gannon” out of the White House, the great American pastime there remains softball:

Yeah, I’m amused/outraged to learn that this White House gave a press pass to a ringer, but what about all those so-called professional journalists who ask nothing but softball questions, too? Anybody who doesn’t know what I’m talking about ought to watch a tape of the president’s infamous press conference on the eve of the Iraq War, when the peacocks of the press all stumbled over their ties and red dresses in abject acquiescence, afraid to pose a hard one for fear of offending the powers that be. Just because Guckert/Gannon (who certainly didn’t deserve a press pass) is out, we shouldn’t assume that the other “legitimate” reporters in the press room are asking questions that aren’t also subtly shaped by the power of that institution. After all, the White House press office, whether controlled by a Democrat or a Republican, long ago learned that it could tame professional journalists by offering or withholding access, including threatening to push them to a back row or out of the press room entirely or off Air Force One. So, do we really expect any of these men and women of the Fourth Estate to prove that they’re not all that different from “Jeff Gannon”?

: Lost Remote’s Cory Bergman frets:

I think media watchdog blogs play an important role, but this latest story will only lead to greater distrust between media execs and bloggers. Selfishly, it makes our jobs harder here at Lost Remote. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that media execs who are not familiar with Lost Remote — the very people we’re trying to attract — are becoming less inclined to trust us simply because we’re a “blog.” Back in 1999 when we launched as an “industry news site,” we had trouble landing interviews because people thought we were insignificant. Now that we have a very respectable audience, we’re battling a blog perception problem inside the industry. Very unfortunate.

Perhaps. But I also think that you’ll see more sucking up to citizens’ media for two reasons: First, because media is like a fly to heat and blogs have heat. And second, because they’re going to learn — eventually — that stonewalling and dissing will get them nowhere.

: Just what we needed — the French perspective: EditorsWeblog, an odd endeavor that tries to speak for journalism coming from the world — no small task — has pissed me off before (when they spread the libel on Iraqi blogs without evidence or reporting or fact or the things we like to call journalism). And now they’ve done it again. Bertrand Pecquerie says of the questioning of Eason Jordan (his bolding):

Within the honest community of bloggers, some of them claimed to be the “sons of the First Amendment”, they just were the sons of Senator McCarthy. And this is very worrying to see this new wedding between self-proclaimed citizen’s media and maintstream journalists scalps’ hunters. Fifty years ago, it was enough to be communist to be fired, today, it is enough to raise questions about the Bush administration policy in Iraq to be denounced as “anti-American”.

Once again, Monsieur, you miss the essence of this — the facts, also known as the journalism. The issue here is whether Jordan did or did not say that journalists were targeted by U.S. troops in Iraq and whether he had any facts to back that up. You quote only one person who was there. Many others said he did, indeed, say this. The only way to know is to get the transcript that Davos still refuses to release. Many of us did not call for Jordan’s head but for the facts — something journalists do, you know. We still do not have those facts. In the meantime, CNN apparently got sick and tired of Jordan and booted him. Ask CNN why that happened. Try reporting, Monsieur, before you start throwing around epithets like McCarthyism. And as for making nice with the likes of Saddam Hussein, I could throw around epithets like Vichy… but I won’t.