April 14, 2003
"Access Of Evil"
Franklin Foer, an editor at the New Republic, slaps the snot out of Eason Jordan and CNN in today's Wall Street Journal. Foer begins by noting Jordan's admission in the New York Times last week that CNN deliberately suppressed news reports on Saddam-backed atrocities. The excuse Jordan used was that reporting such stories would endanger the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on CNN's payroll.
Mr. Jordan may feel he deserves a pinch of credit for coming clean like this. But this admission shouldn't get him any ethical journalism trophies. For a long time, CNN denied that its coverage skimped on truth. While I researched a story on CNN's Iraq coverage for the New Republic last October, Mr. Jordan told me flatly that his network gave "a full picture of the regime." In our conversation, he challenged me to find instances of CNN neglecting stories about Saddam's horrors. If only I'd had his Times op-ed!
Would that this were an outbreak of honesty, however belated. But it isn't. If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn't be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry--and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships. For CNN, the highest prize is "access," to score live camera feeds from a story's epicenter. Dictatorships understand this hunger, and also that it provides blackmail opportunities. In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN--and other U.S. media--can do little more than toe the regime's line.
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