Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Learning to read between the lines

      I haven't been posting about the "Easongate" story.  If you came in late, on Jan. 28th, there was a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swtzerland.  During it, Eason Jordan, News Chief of CNN, apparently said that the U.S. military deliberately targets and kills journalists working in Iraq.  He was challenged on this, and seems to have waffled a bit.  A blogger present in the audience posted on all this.  Other blogs picked it up and ran with it, especially Captain's Quarters, Rebecca MacKinnon, and Michelle Malkin.

      Since then, Jordan has been trying to claim that he never said what most of the witnesses heard thought they heard him say.  This could all be cleared up if a transcript were released, or the videotape of the discussion, but the WEF has declined, and Jordan apparently hasn't pressed them for it.

      The MSM ignored this story for a long time, then tried to help out Jordan.  Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post had a piece on this subject, the Boston Globe had another.  Both are remarkably similar.

      Note this paragraph from the Globe:
Representative Barney Frank, who was on the panel, told The Boston Globe yesterday that attendees "perked up" after Jordan made remarks that ''sounded like accusing the military of deliberate targeting." Frank said Jordan then backed off a bit, saying he wasn't indicating that such targeting represented US military policy.

      There are two quotes from Rep. Frank, then the last sentence, which isn't in quotes.  That's the Globe's paraphrase of Frank.  There are other partial quotes in the article, but the long quotes, in complete sentences, are all from CNN, saying Jordan was misunderstood.  No doubts are raised about this, no mention of the videotape, no mention that most witnesses understood Jordan to say the U.S. military deliberately kills journalists.

      Howard Kurtz isn't much better.  He wrote nothing on the story for days, then he too selectively quotes to make Jordan look good.  David Gergen, the reporter moderating the panel, is said to support Jordan's account.  But Gergen gave a signifigantly different account to Malkin.  Kurtz also neglects to mention that a videotape was made, but isn't being released.  And there are no links in Kurtz's story, or the Globe's, so you can't conveniently find any dissent from what they say.

      Friends, those are the tell-tale signs of a journalist spinning a story.  It's another example of Editing as Lying.  Learn those signs: lots of quotation in sentence fragments, mixtures of quotes and paraphrases, a great deal from one side but not the other, no sources cited for followup, stories ignored at first and then "clarified."

      If you can think of any others, add them in comments.

      It's amazing the MSM still think they can get away with this stuff.  Do your part to re-educate them.

      Update: To see what real journalism on this issue looks like, go read this article in the New York Sun.    No links, but two bloggers names are mentioned, detailed statements from the witnesses are quoted, and other information relevant information is noted.  Bravo, Sun!

      2nd Update: A good comment from Jim Geraghty:
What we need from the Davos conference organizers is simple - the tape of what Jordan said. It would be good to get the entire event, but really, what is at issue here is what Jordan said, and how much he backtracked.

If the Davos organizers refuse to release it, and CNN refuses to call for its release, and the BBC refuses to call for its release, and every other news agency refuses to call for its release...

...then remember this, the next time the media gets up on a high horse about the public's right to know. Remember this the next time Dick Cheney has a meeting with energy executives. Remember this the next time reporters complain about Bush not holding enough press conferences, and not doing enough interviews. Remember this the next time they talk about the importance of a free press, and an informed citizenry.

Because it's all conditional. None of this applies when the situation includes a media executive says something in a big forum that he later realizes he doesn't want the public to hear. Then all of a sudden, none of this matters, because it's bad form for other news agencies to look into the story if he wants it to go away. "Bad manners, old chap. We journalists have to stick together."

Also, remember the top excuse of Dan Rather and the CBS memos? Those infamous, all-powerful "competitive forces." Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and company just had to do the sloppy, unfair, and shoddy work that they did, because they were just so worried about being beaten by another news agency.

And yet in this case... it seems like no news agency is rushing to be first on this. Everybody's taking their time. Nobody wants to be the first to demand Davos release the tape. For days, it seemed like nobody wanted to be the first to write about this, or put it in their news section.

Just where the heck are these powerful, intense, unavoidable, healthy "competitive instincts" now?

      Third update: Another Geraghty post:
We’ve got two dramatically different interpretations here – the account of Rony Abovitz and Rebecca MacKinnon and Barney Frank, and the account of Eason Jordan. (Dodd’s statement appears to confirm Rony & Company but is brief; Gergen mostly confirms Rony but is sympathetic to Jordan; Richard Sambrook’s account is pretty close to Jordan’s.)

These accounts are so contradictory on so many key elements that one has no choice but to conclude one side is dramatically misrepresenting what happened.

The videotape that the Davos authorities are sitting on would solve this issue immediately.

Either Rony, MacKinnon, and Frank are passing on inaccurate accounts that will trash Jordan’s reputation, or Eason Jordan’s denial is a lie.

      The fact that Abovitz wants the tape released, and Jordan isn't saying anything, tells me who's almost certainly lying.



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