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February 9, 2005

Geraghty Asks Tough Questions of the Eason Bloggers

At TKS on National Review, Jim Geraghty has asked some tough questions of all of us -- not just here, but in the blogosphere in general -- who are following this story.

What has the goal of the blogs in this case been? In the case of the CBS memos, it was pretty clear - to confirm suspicions that the memos were fake, and then squeeze a retraction out of a stubborn network digging in its heels.

Calls for Jordan™s resignation or firing appeared almost immediately after the initial reports of this. While I think making an accusation of murder on stage, at the Davos forum, and then not offering any proof is awfully shaky behavior for a news executive, the length of Jordan™s employment at CNN is ultimately up to his bosses. In my humble opinion, calls for Jordan™s dismissal shouldn™t come before calls for the release of the videotape of the event.

I wholeheartedly agree with Geraghty on this. If we are out for the throat from the get-go, we are playing into into the popular stereotype of blogs, the blogosphere, and blogging in general: right wing yahoos who smell blood in the water and are ready for a feeding frenzy.

There are serious questions of ethics regarding this entire controversy. Those are the ultimate issues. We need to know just what happened in Davos before jumping to any conclusions. I think Easongate's petition is pretty straightforward about this -- and I wrote it, so if you disagree, blame me. There is a decision tree aspect to it:

1. Mr. Jordan should release a transcript of his statements.

2. If he didn't say what was reported, then of course, nothing else is warranted.

3. If he did say it then:

a) He has evidence to back it up: that evidence should then be given to the government for an investigation [an alternative might be for it to be aired publicly in a CNN program . . .].

b) He has no evidence: then his position and the nature of his remarks are enough to justify his dismissal.

These are pretty reasonable and level-headed requests. Let's not let any sort of righteous zeal cloud these issues (it springs up in the comments here and there). More from Geraghty:

I'm starting to think some bloggers A) want to "get" Jordan the way it was widely perceived that the blogs "got" Dan Rather and B) use this event to promote their blog and get media appearances, writing gigs, etc.  
I imagine Jim is referring to us, since we've set up this blog for the sole purpose of pursuing this story, and we founders especially are second-tier bloggers.

I hope this is not the impression that we give off. I can't speak for the other bloggers here, but I have no desire whatsoever to be a journalist or a full-time writer. I've been very careful in our internal communications to stress that I'm not in this for glory, and don't want to appear that way. I cover military affairs and foreign relations on my blog -- probably not terribly interesting to everyone, and since my energies are mainly focused here for now, my traffic has actually suffered on my own blog.

My motivations are simple: as a Marine, I am merely interested in keeping "our honor clean." Moreover, if Mr. Jordan does have evidence of journalist-targeting to turn over to the authorities, I will do my utmost to press for an investigation from my congressman.

Enough of that. Back to Geraghty:

Let™s be honest about the power of the blogs - it is great and was unimaginable in an earlier era, but it is limited.

And the blogs alone didn™t "get" Dan Rather. Nor Trent Lott, or did they single-handedly bring the accounts of the Swift Boat Vets for Truth to light. At some point in all of these stories, members of what is sometimes too-easily labeled the mainstream media got interested (often hearing about them from the blogs), couldn™t resist their news-worthiness, and decided to write or broadcast about them. And by doing so, they brought the story to the attention of millions of readers and viewers who, alas, don™t read blogs every day.

True again. The relationship between the major press and the blogosphere is less an adversarial one than it is a symbiotic one: we feed off their reports, they analyze our opinions (whether they admit it or not), we both influence each other. It is much more likely that the two will merge in the future than it is that one will topple the other -- and this is a good thing, as it introduces a system of checks and balances into the Fourth Estate.

The blogosphere often feels like a saloon in western movies. All is humming right along and then some guy you've never seen or even heard of before stumbles in and spills the beans on an unbelievable story somewhere. Or an email pops in the inbox, proposing some sort of entrepreneurial collborative venture -- guest-blogging, media appearances, academic research, a movie review, and other invitations -- just like the prospectors in the old west hoping to figure it all out and strike it rich.

We don't want riches. We want the videotape, or its transcript. That's it.

Hope this answers anyone else with the same concerns.

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