Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Long long ago, I earned a degree in communication studies, with no area of concentration such as business comm or interpersonal comm. That it was the smallest degree available (in terms of required credits) at my university was all to the good, to me at the time; all the better to pursue interesting-sounding electives like History of the American West and Voice for Musical Theater. But I did get one or two things out of my still-pristine comm studies degree.

Notably, I recall a discussion about the press and its agenda-setting function. Access is everything, and the press (or as we call it these days, the MSM) has been tremendously successful in achieving access while excluding others from access - or had been, until blogs came along. Now, it seems anything goes - information flows from whoever on the scene has internet access to anyone who cares to hunt through the crazy chaotic card catalog that is Google and its ilk, limited mainly by the writer's ability to write cogently.

Hence the Eason Jordan hoopla. If you've somehow missed it, may I direct you to Roger L. Simon's blog on the subject, one of many. There's even a website devoted to the story ( - I referenced a blog first because it was in a blog (a different blog, cited below) that the story broke. Briefly, summarized from the blog that broke the story: at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 27, 2005, Jordan, Chief News Exec at CNN, made the outrageous claim that the US military is targeting journalists. I leave out a lot of controversy when I move directly onward to say that he has since claimed to have been misunderstood: his comment, he says, was intended to draw a distinction between journalists killed accidentally ("collateral damage") and journalists killed deliberately ("targeted" by snipers) but not because they're journalists - rather because they are mistaken for insurgents or suchlike.

There is reportedly a videotape of the session, including Jordan's remarks, but Davos (shorthand for the forum) has so far refused to release it.

The story remained essentially blog-only until about Feb. 7, when the Washington Post finally reported Howard Kurtz's retelling (subscription-only link to WaPo here - full disclosure: I haven't read it in the Post but have read many an excerpt elsewhere).

From a column by Michelle Malkin in

Jordan's the man who admitted last spring that CNN withheld news out of Baghdad to maintain access to Saddam Hussein's regime. He was quoted last fall telling a Portuguese forum that he believed journalists had been arrested and tortured by American forces (a charge he maintains today). In the fall of 2002, he reportedly accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting CNN personnel "on numerous occasions." He was in the middle of the infamous Tailwind scandal, in which CNN was forced to retract a Peter Arnett report that the American military used sarin gas against its own troops in Laos. And in 1999, Jordan declared: "We are a global network, and we take global interest[s] first, not U.S. interests first."

Access and agenda-setting. In a pre-blog world, Jordan's remarks would have gone utterly unreported, as would CNN's deal with the devil to "maintain access" in Baghdad and its role in Tailwind. The MSM lags significantly in recognizing that the sun is setting on their agenda-setting: the failure of Davos to release the tape is like an illustration of Sherlock Holmes's contention that a criminal who believes his hidden loot is in jeopardy will often rush directly to its hiding place. It only serves to give away the game.

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