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February 6, 2005

The "Supra-national" Professional News Class

La Shawn Barber's Corner has a great roundup today on the entire Eason Jordan controversy. Among the more interesting links that La Shawn finds, are this one, which excerpts commentary from European sources:

Rather surprising, there was very little independent comment on the matter outside of a couple of Swiss blogs. Nothing in the MSM, and the international blogs appear to be following the lead of U.S.-based blogs on the topic.
Were Jordan and CNN complicit in Saddam's regime since they chose not to tell many of its worst stories? Another question: how many of those implicated in Oil-for-Food were present at Davos last week?

Writing in April of 2003 in Poynter Online, Bob Steele says:

Jordan's Op-ed piece in last Friday's New York Times details several specific cases of the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime, examples that Jordan personally knew about but decided not to reveal until the Hussein regime was toppled.
Until the regime was toppled? For 12 or so years he knew the regime would be toppled? What a prescient fellow. More from Steele:
In a phone interview, Jordan told me that, "For years I™ve said the day will come when I have to tell these stories. I really felt it was a moral imperative to tell these stories when lives would not be lost by doing so."
Now this all took place in April of 2003. From what I've read -- and I don't know, because I was in Iraq at the time -- the US populace was pretty excited about the performance of the military right around then. This is when Mr. Jordan chose to air his hidden stories. Why then? Maybe he thought that now that the gates of the Saddam regime were open, there'd be plenty of opportunities for other news organizations to air stories of atrocities, and he wanted to get a head start. Regardless, anything that CNN reported from Iraq during the entire decade of the 1990s is suspect.

Jay Rosen at PressThink, has this to say about Jordan's position:

Eason Jordan is not the President but the Colin Powell of news at CNN, and his skills have to be diplomatic, as well as strategic. Therefore being diplomatic in what you say, especially in a public forum, is in the essence of his role. He deals with governments in tense situations. Much of what he does never becomes known. It can't be.


You could easily picture Jordan as a candidate for office, or let's say a Senator's chief of staff. He's a politician of news-- a difficult and necessary job. He's also the chief diplomatic officer for CNN, which, in certain respects, is a kind of principality among the states: the information states. Sovereign in global video, which can trigger events and end regimes. I said Jordan negotiates with governments. He does not have to beg.

Some of his worldy outlook comes through in an interview he gave to Sarah Sullivan in 2002. There is one part I find fascinating. He describes CNN International as a supra-national player, synthesizing in its offices scattered worldwide a kind of World Journalism or global professionalism in news that, in Jordan's vision, transcends the bias of any one nation, and certainly of the "base" country.

[Read that interview here.]

Jordan's goal is for the narratives of CNN to transcend the biases of any one nation. But is he mistaken in thinking that the way to do that is via a "supra-national" professional cadre? Doesn't this class have its own biases, rhetoric, and culture?

Perhaps Mr. Jordan's Davos remarks are a small window into that world . . .

The blogosphere on the other hand, has no such "sovereignty" to maintain, or negotiations to undertake. While our resources are small in comparison, our freedom is vastly greater.

[If anyone is interested, I have a war story about the difference between war coverage and, well, actual war. I'll put it on my own blog since it's slightly off-topic here.]

UPDATE: [2:51p] If Mr. Jordan chose to wait until the end of Saddam's regime to air the stories he sat on, perhaps he will give a similar reason for now airing his complaints that the US targets journalists. Perhaps he feels that since Iraq has a popularly-elected government, that he no longer fears death for his fellow journalists at the hands of the "occupation regime." Will be interesting to see if this line of thought is put into use.

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