February 13, 2005
WATCHED JEFF JARVIS ON RELIABLE SOURCES a little while ago, and I thought the show's treatment of the Eason Jordan / Jeff Gannon / Bloggers-as-journalists issues was quite good. Best Jeff quote: "Bloggers didn't fire Jordan. CNN fired Jordan." [LATER: Well, I was close. Transcript here.]
I'm speculating, here, but I wonder if part of the delay in responding wasn't because CNN wanted to look at the tape, and if Jordan's departure was a result of what they saw when they did. We'll never know, unless somebody writes a tell-all, but if the tape is released we'll probably be able to make a pretty shrewd guess.
I think I disagree with Jeff Jarvis about nothing being off the record any more, even though the line about "Wolf Blitzer in sheep's clothing" is pretty good. Erving Goffman wrote about the importance of a "backstage," and this sort of thing makes it impossible to have one. But on the other hand, the press has been denying that to everyone else for years.
The interesting part was that neither Howard Kurtz nor David Gergen thought there was much to the Gannon story, with both noting that White Houses usually try to seed press conferences with friendly journalists. I think that Bill Press was right that if this was a false-flag operation by the White House that's a fairly big deal but there doesn't seem to be much evidence of that. Personally, I never paid much attention to the Talon News site, even though people did send me links from time to time, because it seemed a bit amateurish and was rather obviously a partisan outfit. (No Maureen Dowd jokes here, please). It seems to me that a genuine effort to pass it off as a nonpartisan news agency would have been slicker, and lacked the obvious GOP connection. Another good question from Bill Press: If this guy was fake, how come none of the mainstream journalists in the press room ever said anything about him?
I also agree with Kurtz that it was the stuff about Gannon's personal life that led to his resignation, and that there's something rather sleazy about that. Backstage or not, targeting parts of people's lives that don't have to do with the story -- like, say, Eason Jordan's love life -- seems inappropriate to me, and likely to lend support to the bloggers-as-lynch-mob caricature.
UPDATE: On the "targeting" question, The Mudville Gazette features a dialogue with journalist Jules Crittenden, whose work is often misquoted in support of the idea that journalists are being targeted. Excerpt:
GH: So you were there?
JC: I was about 100 yards or so from the Jumhuriyah Bridge, down at the intersection of Haifa and Jaffa, when Staff Sgt Shawn Gibson fired on the Palestine. All of us were highly concerned at the time about reports an Iraqi FO had eyes on our position from a tall building in the vicinity. After the big counterattack that morning was fought back, we continued to receive sporadic mortar fire and RPG fire all morning, taking and returning fire from several tall buildings. The tankers on the bridge reported that numerous RPG teams were operating up and down the opposite bank of the Tigris. Gibson saw what he thought was the spotter and fired. He was distraught when he learned his mistake.
GH: And following the events the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders also wrote up reports?
JC: Yes. I was quoted in the reports, selectively and/or inaccurately, and had RWB remove my remarks, which they reported inaccurately and without permission. CPJ, while casting aspersions on the soldiers based on speculation, neglected to include remarks I made on the character of Gibson and CO Capt. Phillip Wolford, whom I knew as professionals who went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. I lived with them, rode with them into a series of actions and have great respect for them. The Palestine was an accident by well-intentioned men who had been under fire, some of it intense, since dawn the day before.
Read the whole thing.
MORE: Interesting Gannon backstory here from Tom Maguire.
STILL MORE: Here's more from Crittenden via Poynter and John Cole.