Story location:

February 11, 2005

Eason Jordan Resigns

Just got off the phone with Howard Kurtz. It's confirmed. Eason Jordan resigned today about an hour ago (6 pm EST). There are lots of reactions.

Here is an AP Story. Here is CNN’s account. And Howard Kurtz’s. See Instapundit.

This is the statement Eason Jordan released tonight around 6:00 pm EST:

After 23 years at CNN, I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq.

I have devoted my professional life to helping make CNN the most trusted and respected news outlet in the world, and I would never do anything to compromise my work or that of the thousands of talented people it is my honor to work alongside.

While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the U.S. military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that U.S. military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been.

I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise. I have great admiration and respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, with whom I have worked closely and been embedded in Baghdad, Tikrit, and Mosul, in addition to my time with American soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen in Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Arabian Gulf.

As for my colleagues at CNN, I am enormously proud to have worked with you, risking my life in the trenches with you, and making CNN great with you. For that experience, and for your friendship and support these many years, I thank you.

I told Howard Kurtz I was surprised and didn’t know of any firing offense. Of course I haven’t seen the tape.

11pm: Kurt’z story is out: “Eason Jordan resigned last night as CNN’s chief news executive in an effort to quell a bubbling controversy over his remarks about U.S. soldiers killing journalists in Iraq.” Read it. He quotes me correctly:

Jay Rosen [said] he didn’t think Jordan “had engaged in a firing offense.” Bloggers “made a lot of noise” about the Jordan flap, Rosen said. “But there was basic reporting going on — finding the people who were there, getting them to make statements, comparing one account to another — along with accusations and conspiracy thinking and the politics of paranoia and attacks on the MSM, or mainstream media.”

Here’s one try at an explanation. The primary sources are my earlier post on Jordan’s job being political and diplomatic (the Colin Powell of the news division but very definitely a journalist by tribal affiliation); plus the comments of Rebecca MacKinnon; and this comment from a “veteran journalist” in tonight’s thread, otherwise nameless. It also picks up from the terse Glenn Reynolds: “I think we know what the video would have shown, now.” It’s only a possible explanation, but plausible in my view.

The tape had to be a disaster. But what kind? When Jordan and others at CNN looked at it, they must have seen a man making statements that went beyond what the network had been able to prove in its news reporting. He had wandered into the territory of assertion, some hearsay, and of things you feel you know are true even though you can’t get anyone on the record to say it.

By speaking in this way before an audience of influentials, Jordan allowed there to be (some) daylight between the military reporting the rest of the world had seen on CNN and the “report” that Jordan, its chief news executive, was willing to offer the in crowd in Davos. But there can never be that daylight. As “veteran journo” said: “If the standard of proof wasn’t good enough to get it on CNN, it’s not good enough to discuss at a forum in Davos.”

Ordinarily the lapse would not be noticed, and would not become public. That was before the WEF created a participants’ blog. Rebecca MacKinnon, who once worked for Eason Jordan at CNN (bio): “I think Eason Jordan resigned because he knew that if the Davos tape came out it would make the situation worse, not better.” (Worse because the “lower standard of proof” is plainly in evidence at certain moments.) Her post is a must.

I know there are a number of people involved with the World Economic Forum who think the WEF needs to completely re-think its media/blogging and on/off record policies. It was a great thing that the WEF started a blog this year, inviting conference participants to post their impressions and thoughts. I encouraged them to do this. Unfortunately, the WEF’s operating norms are not compatible with the age of the blog. Jordan’s demise is the frightening result.

I said it in Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over: “A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine.”

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Steve Lovelady emails: “The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail. (Where is Jimmy Stewart when we need him ?) This convinces me more than ever that Eason Jordan is guilty of one thing, and one thing only — caring for the reporters he sent into battle, and haunted by the fact that not all of them came back. Like Gulliver, he was consumed by Lilliputians.”

“We see you beind the curtain, Lovelady and company, and we’re not impressed by either your bluster or your insults,” says Will Collier at Vodka Pundit. “We’re not going away. Deal with it.” For more, check out the exchanges between Steve Lovelady and Vodka Pundit readers.

“Sad day for the freedom of expression in America and sad day again for the future of blogging,” writes Bertrand Pecquerie at Editors Weblog. “Nevertheless, there is one advantage in this story: masks are fallen!… Real promoters of citizen media would have to take some distance with those who have fueled and organised the Eason Jordan hatred. If not, the ‘new era of journalism’opened by the blogosphere will appear as the old clothes of American populism.”

Captain’s Quarters: “The moral of the story: the media can’t just cover up the truth and expect to get away with it — and journalists can’t just toss around allegations without substantiation and expect people to believe them anymore.”

An anonymous “veteran journo” in the comments is making sense on why Jordan had to go. I don’t know who it is, though. “I’m a journalist (25 years in the trenches) and I have been following this story with great interest.” That is evident.

Michelle Malkin does an instant restrospective: Easongate.

For those of us in the information business, this is truly an earth-shaking time. Who would have imagined that the downfall of one of the world’s most powerful news executives would be precipitated by an ordinary citizen blogging his eyewitness report at Davos in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 27? It’s simply stunning.

Her narrative of events in the blogosphere is very useful. The column is impressively done— on deadline, as it were.

The Los Angeles Times tells readers about Eason Jordan’s resignation over the fallout from a story the Los Angeles Times never told its readers about. What is the name for that?

Rebecca Blood: “Journalists will take this personally. For many of them—and for a large segment of the public—this will cement their view of blogs as nothing more than a written form of talk radio. With regard to the weblogs most often quoted in the press, and apparently read by reporters, this perception will largely be accurate.”

Glenn Reynolds remarks on a telling little error in the Los Angeles Times story: “If, as many suspect, this will be spun by some Big Media outfits as a baying mob out for the blood of conscientious journalists, that spin will lose force when it becomes apparent that many of those describing the ‘mob’ have only the vaguest idea of what they’re describing.”

Don’t miss Digby’s take on it.

Dan Kennedy of the Boston Phoenix: “Can we please interrupt the self-congratulatory hooting from conservative bloggers for a moment in order to offer some kudos to two liberals, Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd? It was their outrage that lifted this out of the usual left-right paradigm.” A much neglected factor.

Cory Bergman at Lost Remote:

This latest story will only lead to greater distrust between media execs and bloggers. Selfishly, it makes our jobs harder here at Lost Remote. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that media execs who are not familiar with Lost Remote — the very people we’re trying to attract — are becoming less inclined to trust us simply because we’re a “blog.” Back in 1999 when we launched as an “industry news site,” we had trouble landing interviews because people thought we were insignificant. Now that we have a very respectable audience, we’re battling a blog perception problem inside the industry. Very unfortunate.

Timothy Karr at Media Citizen: “The problem is that much of the story was driven by those seeking to score political points. The new and accurate information that they often uncover is just a byproduct of the witch hunt. This controversy mounted as mainstream news reporters fed off the blogs; their resulting mainstream coverage stoked the ranting pundits on the endless cable talk shows. This media storm then spun back into the blogosphere, which ratcheted the frenzy up another notch. And so on.”

Jim Geraghty at National Review Online:

I would have preferred that the tape be released, that the public have a chance to mull over his comments, and then let Jordan face whatever consequences were appropriate. I have a feeling that the discussion of the “blogs as a lynch mob” is going to get a lot of coverage in the coming days.

“This was clearly was a case of blog-thuggery.” Jude Nagurney Camwell at the American Street:

The ‘Right-wing mouth machine’ would like us all to think that Eason Jordan was “bad” and “unAmerican” for saying what he said. CNN has been complicit by their reticence to talk about tough issues. They wound up to be the biggest loser. They lost Eason Jordan. Eason was guilty before being proven innocent by no other process except one: the blog-trial. The right-wing blogs seem to be the Supreme Court of the blogging community at large. Why should this be so?

From Howard Kurt’s account:

Gergen said Jordan’s resignation was “really sad” since he had quickly backed off his initial comments. “This is too high a price to pay for someone who has given so much of himself over 20 years. And he’s brought down over a single mistake because people beat up on him in the blogosphere? They went after him because he is a symbol of a network seen as too liberal by some. They saw blood in the water.”

PressThink, Feb. 10: “Whether you agree or not in the case of Jordan’s remarks, suspicion of the blog swarm is not crazy or wrong, and fear of mob-like actions by bloggers and others online is going to continue to speak to people, for the same reason invasions of privacy by the press always speak across ideological divides. It doesn’t take much to imagine the mob coming at you.”

From the New York Times account by Jacques Steinberg and Katharine Seelye: “Eason Jordan, a senior executive at CNN who was responsible for coordinating the cable network’s Iraq coverage, resigned abruptly last night, citing a journalistic tempest he touched off during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, late last month…” A journalistic tempest?

See this interview in the Mudville Gazette with Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald, on what he calls the “myth” of targeted journalists. Crittenden was an embedded reporter in Iraq. Also see this letter from him.

Jeff Jarvis: “I honestly don’t get it. If he had been upfront about what he said from the start; if he had demanded that Davos release the tape and transcript; if he had admitted to putting his foot in his mouth and apologized and said he was wrong; if he’d done that, he’d still have a job… But he released obfuscating statements and didn’t level with the public he’s supposed to serve and now he’s slinking away like a criminal when he should be apologizing for saying something stupid.” (More Jarvis.)

The End of Honest Mistakes? Garrett M. Graff at FishbowlDC:

On any given week the Jeff Gannon saga or the Eason Jordan controversy would have been big news on the blogs, but the fact that they came in the same week—their virtual bloodletting separated by just a few days—marks a much larger sea change.

We now entering an age where journalists are so closely scrutinized by thousands of people with almost limitless time and limitless research power that the slightest misstep can end a distinguished career.

Rony Abovitz (before tonight’s news): “The challenge for Eason is how to both have real integrity on this issue and keep his job. The more spinning and denials, the harder this becomes.”

“The trouble was the cover-up.” — Hugh Hewitt’s verdict.

Posted by Jay Rosen at February 11, 2005 7:09 PM