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CNN, Octavia Nasr, Hezbollah & Thomas Friedman

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by YankeeFan, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    By now, you probably know that CNN fired their enior editor of Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she published a Twitter message saying, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

    Friedman's come to her defense saying that at most, she should have been suspended for a month:

    Friedman acknowledges the problem with Fadlallah:

    But then, he also finds reasons to "respect" him as well:

    So, did Nasr deserve to get fired, and what do you think of Friedman's defense?
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Meh. As I understand it, Nasr's principal point of respect for the guy was that he had treated women in the Muslim world better than your average Hezbollah bear. "A sane, adult and independent woman does not need a guardian,” seems to be the money quote.

    And he did condemn the 9/11 attacks – unlike, say, Friend-of-Obama Bill Ayers. (Sorry, can't help myself.)

    However, there is this: "I was not the one who launched the idea of so-called suicide bombings, but I have certainly argued in favour of them." So he'll respect Muslim women, but he's OK with killing Israeli women.

    Ultimately, Friedman gives voice to what would have to be my bottom line: "Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility."

    If that's the case, then you have to find somebody else to do the job. She's gone native, in the "Avatar" parlance.
  3. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    But is that really a/the crime?

    If you're covering the Yankees or the White House and a key player passes away (Boss George for instance) are you unable to express condolences?

    I think the bigger issue is who she expressed "respect" for rather than the fact that she respected him.

    If a Yankee's writer had written that he respected George, would anyone call for that person's job (or even re-assignment to another beat)?
  4. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Privately, you can express your condolences, or tell someone that you respect them. Publicly on the record, you should keep the biases to yourself.
  5. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    You guys are the experts, but i don't think you necessarily reveal a bias if you say out loud that you like or respect someone.

    Sometimes you're going to cover people who are likable and worthy of respect.

    I'm not sure there's anything wrong with your readers or viewers knowing that. Maybe it's not necessary, but I don't think there's a problem with it.

    In fact, if you do have biases, I think it's better to make your audience aware of them rather than keeping it from them.

    Even in this case, the problem should be wether or not she had a bias. If she did, her bosses should have been and probably were aware of it.

    That's what should have bothered them, not that she actually admitted to them.
  6. sportsguydave

    sportsguydave Active Member

    I'd have to agree with both Baron and Friedman here. You just don't publicly share your feelings about any of the sources you cover, one way or the other. It compromises your objectivity and opens you up to the kind of situation that led CNN to throw her under the bus.

    Nasr wasn't saying she agreed with Fadlallah's views or methods ... but that's the way her statement was perceived. She should have known better.
  7. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    The obligation is to keep your biases out of your reporting.

    Everyone is going to have biases. It's how you deal with them.
  8. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    The problem here is that when it comes to the Middle East, a CNN Editor must be perceived as neutral, even though, as YF says, it's almost impossible.

    I'm not a huge Friedman fan because his optimism clouds his judgment. Again, that's an issue here. It's also why, even though I'm a fan of twitter, it's 140-character limit makes it dangerous to the user.

    If Nasr tweeted a link to an obit she'd written -- something with a lot more depth, explaining why she felt that way while also stating his warts, she'd probably still have a job.

    However, an organization that cares about its objectivity -- and CNN sure does -- can't keep her in that position after that tweet.
  9. jlee

    jlee Well-Known Member

    You can get away with posting something like that in the realm of sports. You can respect George Steinbrenner, even call him a "giant," without being a Yankees fan.

    Paying respects to a U.S. politician or other prominent figure, like Ronald Reagan or Edward Kennedy, does not smack of bias either, in my opinion.

    But the Middle East conflict is way too touchy of a situation for a senior editor to call a source "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot" in a publicly broadcast manner.
  10. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    CNN uses Twitter for reporting. Octavia Nasr was tweeting from her CNN account. She praised a leader of Hezbollah under the CNN auspices. Sorry, but she's no longer a credible journalist from that point forward.

    Stupid mistake, yes, but when those of us in the business reach sensitive, important positions, it's expected that we won't make stupid mistakes ... especially those that reflect badly on our employers. CNN had no other choice than to give her some lovely parting gifts and a copy of the home game.

    It's as simple as that.
  11. MileHigh

    MileHigh Moderator Staff Member

    Yah, you need to keep it all in check. Very touchy subject, but CNN did the right thing.
  12. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    When George Steinbrenner fesses up to supporting suicide bombers, then you may want to pause before you say you respected him upon his passing. But expressing any sympathies toward a politically charged person who expressed none to those who he advocated and supported mrudering is an automatic ejection.
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