Saturday, February 12, 2005

Some Eason Jordan Musings

Believe it or not, as far as the Eason Jordan story goes I might as well have been on Mars for the last week or so. Work took me out of town and pretty much had me tied up around the clock.

So, here's some help for those who, like me, missed all the excitement. The more I read about it, the more I see what a significant development this is in the story of the blogosphere.

Eason Jordan at the fateful World Economic Forum event, with Afghanistan Foreign Minister Abdullah

What Happened, Anyway?

If you want to learn more about this matter, you'll find a fine (if somewhat triumphant) summary at Michelle Malkin.

I think this one is a must-read, by Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation, a blog described as "musings of . . . a recovering TV reporter-turned-blogger." Ms. MacKinnon was present at the World Economic Forum conference where Eason Jordan made his infamous comments. Apart from that eyewitness perspective, she is an interesting blogger in her own right: She worked for CNN, and states that she "was based in China and Japan for CNN from 1992 until the end of 2003. During that time [she] held positions ranging from 'production assistant' to 'producer' to 'correspondent' to 'bureau chief and correspondent.'" Ms. MacKinnon is a very interesting person to follow, as she's now making the transition from traditional news to in-depth study of "participatory media," like blogs. Here's her bio.

What Does This Mean?

Hugh Hewitt's summary is also a little triumphant in tone, but he makes the key point: No one in the old news media was covering this story, and the old media would not have even given the story a look if bloggers had not forced the issue. The old-boy and old-girl network of the old media is much less comfortable than before, and that is always a good thing.

But overall, I do not see what has happened here as all that wonderful. Eason Jordan went down because he said something unconscionable and then got mired in denials while refusing to make available any record of the event. It was his refusal to be transparent, to let the pubic decide for itself what he said and what it meant, that caused his demise.

Since lack of transparency was the catalyst here, can we be sure what will happen now? Is Easongate going to make the old media less biased, or simply more careful about letting their slip show in public the way Jordan did? As time goes on, people like Jordan will fear bloggers and the transparency bloggers force, but will that fear simply drive the old media's bias deeper underground? Will fear produce loathing as well? Blogs are supposed to bring more openness to public dialogue, not simply create more secretive attitudes and opportunities for on-line screaming matches.

No one really knows the answers, and I do not intend to be a worry-wart. I just think bloggers should be a little careful about getting too carried away with giant-killing.


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