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April 1, 2005
AJR Post-Mortem On Eason's Fables: Exempt Media Blew It

Tapscott's Copy Desk points readers to a new article in the American Journalism Review which combines an in-depth interview of Rony Arbovitz with an analysis of the firestorm he touched off at Davos by reporting the comments made by Eason Jordan to the blogosphere. Arbovitz fires his guns at the mainstream media that ignored the story far too long for mere coincidence:

When Jordan dropped his bombshell, contending that 12 journalists had been targeted and killed by U.S. forces in Iraq, Abovitz felt compelled to challenge the CNN executive to back up the charges. "My reaction wasn't that he was lying; my reaction was that he was telling the truth," Abovitz recalls. "I thought what he was saying was going to be blown open wide by CNN in some major expos, that he was letting us in on some huge Abu Ghraib-type scandal, but much, much bigger."

And so, Abovitz says he told Jordan at the session, "You have just accused the United States of something quite terrible in front of a lot of people who might be quite hostile to the United States, a lot of foreigners, in a pretty anti-American environment. I hope you have something to back it up." ...

Abovitz says he didn't decide to post anything on the forum blog until it became clear to him that journalists in attendance weren't going to write about the episode. So, late that night, Abovitz returned to his room, wrote down his impressions and filed his 1,094-word post. ...

In quick succession he got calls from the Miami Herald, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Bill O'Reilly and conservative radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, of whom he had never heard. He marvels at the fact that reporters in Japan and Australia wanted to interview him. He's not especially pleased with most of the coverage, believing that the mainstream press tended to explain away Jordan's statements while the blogo-sphere wanted the CNN executive's head. He's especially critical of the way CNN handled the controversy and believes that the network could have defused the situation by responding more openly and urging the WEF to release the session videotape.

"It's like no one learned anything from Clinton and Monica," he says, "that evading and hiding and spinning [don't] work."

Let's be clear on this point; most of us in the blogosphere had the same reaction that Arbovitz had at the conference. We assumed that his statement portended some upcoming expos by CNN based on his accusations. After all, Jordan ran one of the largest media empires in the world. If he had information that the US military deliberately targeted journalists -- an allegation that AJR and Arbovitz fail to mention he'd made more than just at Davos -- Jordan had ample opportunity and facility to show the proof. Instead, he remained silent, and it quickly became apparent that he had no proof at all to substantiate his allegations.

We didn't want his head, at least not at first. We wanted his proof. The head of a news organization owes it to the public to back up such allegations with specific evidence supporting them. After all, the Exempt Media has been scolding us for months now that they have editorial checks and balances to keep spurious information from publication -- and here we have the top man at CNN making spectacular charges of murder and conspiracy reaching the highest ranks of the American military.

When it became apparent that Jordan had no proof, we waited impatiently for the rest of the Exempt Media to put their checks and balances into action to demonstrate their superiority. Instead, no one in the traditional press or broadcast networks even covered the story until the night before Jordan's resignation, two weeks after the blogosphere had exposed not only the Davos lie, but a series of statements Jordan had made in foreign venues alleging and/or implying that American and Israeli military wanted to kill journalists. Just as he had sold out to Saddam Hussein during the 1990s for continued photo ops inside Baghdad, Jordan sold out to the anti-American global press to increase his credibility and access with people like Al-Jazeera and others.

Jordan got himself fired. The bloggers merely performed the checks and balances that the Exempt Media claim they employ on themselves, but which have been increasingly shown to be another journalistic urban legend.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 1, 2005 7:27 AM

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Why is it that the only entity on that list who recognized the significance of what Jordan had said and treated it as the breaking news story it was, was a blogger? [Read More]

Tracked on April 1, 2005 10:48 AM

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