The MSM’s Easongate Embarrassment

You would think that “Easongate” would lead to a bit of introspection among members of the old media considering the circumstances. Here we have a powerful figure in the media, Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, apparently claiming that the military was targeting journalists. The story blew up all across the right side of the blogosphere and on talk radio despite Jordan’s stonewalling, while the MSM, for the most part ignored it. Then, after the buzz didn’t die away, CNN unceremoniously dumped Jordan.

Given all of that, you might think that members of the MSM would be concerned. After all, how could it be that a powerful member of the media was fired after making controversial remarks that stirred up a maelstrom of criticism without the story even being deemed newsworthy enough to make the LA Times before Jordan was canned? So where are the editors scratching their heads about how a story like this managed to creep under their radar? They seem to be few and far between.

Instead, the most prevalent catty meme du jour in the MSM seems to be, “Who do these bloggers think they are?”

From the The New York Times

“Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor of CJR Daily, the Web site of The Columbia Journalism Review, has been among the most outspoken.

“The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail,” he lamented online after Mr. Jordan’s resignation. He said that Mr. Jordan cared deeply about the reporters he had sent into battle and was “haunted by the fact that not all of them came back.”

The New York Post notes another critic,

“Bertrand Pecquerie, director of the World Editors Forum, the organization for editors within the World Association of Newspapers, please. Mourning Jordan’s decision to step down, Pecquerie likened bloggers to the “sons of Senator McCarthy” and “scalps’ hunters.”

Even The Wall Street Journal chimes in…

“More troubling to us is that Mr. Jordan seems to have “resigned,” if in fact he wasn’t forced out, for what hardly looks like a hanging offense. It is true that Mr. Jordan has a knack for indefensible remarks, including a 2003 New York Times op-ed in which he admitted that CNN had remained silent about Saddam’s atrocities in order to maintain its access in Baghdad. That really was a firing offense. But CNN stood by Mr. Jordan back then — in part, one suspects, because his confession implicated the whole news organization. Now CNN is throwing Mr. Jordan overboard for this much slighter transgression, despite faithful service through his entire adult career.

That may be old-fashioned damage control. But it does not speak well of CNN that it apparently allowed itself to be stampeded by this Internet and talk-show crew. Of course the network must be responsive to its audience and ratings. But it has other obligations, too, chief among them to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.

No doubt this point of view will get us described as part of the “mainstream media.” But we’ll take that as a compliment since we’ve long believed that these columns do in fact represent the American mainstream. We hope readers buy our newspaper because we make grown-up decisions about what is newsworthy, and what isn’t.”

Besides the MSM’s embarassment at being beaten to the punch by a bunch of conservative bloggers who never bothered with journalism school, there’s more than a little bit of hypocrisy at work here.

Remember that there’s nothing the MSM loves more than sticking it to Republicans, so much so that they’ll run just about any flimsy accusation. Bernard’s Kerik’s “affairs?” Fair game. Wild allegations about the Bush family’s private life from Kitty Kelley? Bring ’em on! Accusing George Bush of being a deserter and AWOL? Sounds good!

But when the spotlight turns in the other direction and the Eason Jordans & Dan Rathers are asked to be accountable for their smears, “That’s unfair,” “That’s out of bounds,” “That’s not cricket, old chap!” Fifteen years ago, a story like this would have never made the news because the old media would have turned their noses up at it, decided that it was information that the public didn’t need to know, and there would have been no one else to dig the news out of the hole the MSM buried it in. That’s how it worked in the “bad old days” before the new media, but much to the chagrin of the MSM, those days are gone forever and the public is being better served for it…

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