Eason Jordan's Professional Obituary: CNN Executives Lament & Defend
The Word Unheard from Atlanta today comes in the form of Eason Jordan’s professional obituary in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration required). Current and former CNN executives abound lament the fall of Eason Jordan and predictably characterize his professional demise as the result of nothing more than a lynch-blog mentality.
(Before the contradictions are dissected, it first should be noted that the story’s writer, Matt Kempner, did a fine job of writing. He pointed out the improbable successes in Eason Jordan’s remarkable career and his unlikely rise in the industry, let alone CNN. Mr. Kempner is not responsible for the words of others, no matter how incredulous. Some may question why he chose the quotes he chose, but to use quotes from CNN peers and bosses who worked with Jordan is fair reporting.)
The first incredulous statement defending Jordan (and CNN) comes from a CNN spokeswoman.
Enter Christa Robinson:
Jordan was reported to have said that a dozen journalists who died in Iraq were targeted by the U.S. military. When participants challenged his comments, he quickly backpedaled, but apparently not nearly far enough or fast enough.
Bloggers pushed CNN to ask the World Economic Forum for a transcript of the discussion. The network did not do so, spokeswoman Christa Robinson said, because there's no dispute over what Jordan said and because he tried to clarify his comments.
No dispute??? Did Robinson bother to inform Eason Jordan? His own official stated reason for resigning was because there were ‘conflicting accounts’ over what he had said. So which is it? CNN can’t even report straight about CNN. No wonder so many have doubts about that network’s coverage.
Her second reason for not asking the WEF to release the tapes was that Jordan ‘tried to clarify.’ It doesn’t seem as if his ‘trying’ did much ‘clarifying’, now does it? Maybe the tape would help.
The WEF eventually said (after the firestorm started) that Jordan’s session operated under ‘Chatham House Rules’. (HatTip: Rebecca MacKinnon) If that were the case, why was there a camera recording? It is illogical to record something that, according to the WEF, cannot be attributed to source speakers by name without permission. What the WEF decides after the fact to deem ‘on the record’ or ‘off the record’ conversations is talking in circles. It seems rather clear that the session in question became ‘off the record’ after CNN’s Eason Jordan went ‘off the charts’. Someone bigger than Eason Jordan got to them. Does anyone wonder who?
Robinson stated that CNN did not ask the WEF to release the tape. That is a brilliantly incomplete sentence.
Did CNN not ask the WEF to release the tape to the world, or did CNN not ask the WEF to release the tape to CNN?
CNN has obtained and examined the tape. You can bet your last dime on that one. There can be no doubt. The board has shareholders to answer to. So if it’s newsworthy enough for CNN to view and judge, why not everyone else concerned? How can a controversial event that results in the resignation of one of the nations top news executives not qualify as reportable news?
The next amusing quote in the article comes from the Man of the Hour himself, in an E-mail declining an interview with AJC.
Enter Eason Jordan:
"What's done is done," he wrote. "I am looking forward and am excited about the future."
Uh-huh...excited about the future. But then, what would one expect him to say? "This sucks" or "I am looking back and wish I had just shut my damned piehole"?
What's done is not done, Mr. Jordan. You maliciously slandered the men and women of the American Military. You may not be man enough to fight military battles of arms, but that does not equate that we are not intelligent enough to fight your battles of words. We do not care about your job. The position you held until Friday past only added to the flames, but the fire of your slander still burns.
Enter Walter Isaacson:
Former CNN News Group Chairman Walter Isaacson wrote in an e-mail to the AJC that Jordan was dedicated to "the value of hard reporting by real journalists [can you hear it coming?] who braved going out into the field, like he so often did, rather than merely opining. [Careful there, big fella. You know not the boots we have worn.] It's ironic that he was brought down partly by talk-show and blogging folks who represent the opposite approach and have seldom . . . ventured out to do . . . frontline reporting."
Alright. Isaacson wants the gloves off? Fine.
Let's just stop right there and turn this ship right around:
It's ironic that the American Military men and women were slandered by a news executive and reporting folk who represents the opposite approach and has never...ventured out to do...frontline fighting...to preserve (or in this case, establish in Iraq) the very freedoms he abuses so recklessly.
Isaacson's arrogant and condescending statement served to once again expose the established media's nearly universal misunderstanding and resentment of 'blogger folks'. We are Isaacson's traditional consumer. We are CNN's viewers. What is seen in blogs today are the conversations that always existed, but had never gotten farther than our dinner tables. Until now, the Isaacsons never heard them...and we never had so many sitting at the table to converse with.
With so many sitting at the table, any given event that occurs can be analyzed and shared by a few 'blogger folks' who are true subject matter experts in that particular field. Various military fields, computer programming, law enforcement, medicine, (gasp) journalism, and, yes (dare I say it) even vintage IBM typewriters. The network media, however, does not enjoy such a depth. The established media's reporters are almost always journalists, writers and speakers first and very rarely experts on the field(s) they are attempting to report on.
This is not merely opining, as Isaacson would like to characterize it. It is fact.
Ask yourself: Why is it that every time there is a round chambered in Iraq, there appears on every news network's set a 'Military Analyst' who is not a journalist? Why do networks hire so many analysts? Becase their journalists are not subject matter experts. The analysts are hired because they have 'braved going out into the field' to do what their journalists have 'braved going out into the field' to report.
Enter Tom Johnson:
Former CNN News Group Chairman Tom Johnson, who had been Jordan's mentor, decried what he called "unjustified and almost irrational attacks on Eason's character...He may have misspoken at Davos, for which he apologized and clarified his comments. But he does not deserve the severe condemnations, which have led to his resignation."
It was the military’s character that was attacked unjustifiably and irrationally, Mr. Johnson. How it can be observed in the reverse is bewildering. If Jordan is a victim, then he is a victim of himself. He is suffereing from verbal whiplash as the result of his sudden halting comments.
I remember a certain Senator from Mississippi who 'misspoke' once and later 'apologized and clarified his comments'. Where was your deft defense of 'misspoken' words then, sir?
Eason Jordan was a remarkable and improbable success story in his chosen field. he bucked all odds and rose from a college dropout to become one of the most influential men in American and International Media circles. His Professional Obituary does and should reflect that.
However, he slandered American Military men and women, accusing them of murder and torture. This is why it is a 'Professional Obituary' and not a 'Continuing Professional Saga'. Bloggers did not bring down Eason Jordan. Many bloggers were angry and demanded the evidentiary video tape. He resigned rather than provide it. Pretty straight forward.
But we do not care about his job or his resignation, however appropriate.
He stands accused of slander.
1. slander -- (words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another)
2. aspersion, calumny, slander, defamation, denigration -- (an abusive attack on a person's character or good name)
It should be formally filed as such and the existing evidence (in the form of a video tape) should be subpoenaed. Then we will know.
The American Military deserves no less in defense of their honor.
Eason Jordan's resignation does not defend the American Military's honor.
It defends CNN. And that's not good enough.