[I]t’s not entirely clear Eason Jordan’s get-along policy with Saddam didn’t kill as many people as it protected. For example, the butcher’s psycho boy Udai told Jordan that he intended to murder Saddam’s two sons-in-law, who’d defected. Jordan felt he couldn’t tip off the guys because it would have jeopardized the life of CNN’s translator, who was also present at the meeting. So the sons-in-law returned to Baghdad and were promptly killed. ”I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me,” whimpers Jordan. But it’s not really a ”story,” is it? It’s some other fellow’s life. Did Jordan tell his bosses? Was it a corporate Time-Warner decision to go ahead and let these guys get whacked…?

Throughout this period, instead of acknowledging the open secret that he couldn’t report fairly from Baghdad, Jordan huffily insisted that he could. If news is the issue, CNN didn’t need to be in Iraq. The truth of what was going on was easily ascertained from talking to Iraqis in Amman, Kuwait and London. But that doesn’t work for CNN. They sell themselves as a global brand and it’s more important to them to be seen to have a Baghdad bureau than to have any real news emerging from that bureau. What mattered to CNN was not the two-minute report of rewritten Saddamite press releases but the sign off: ”Jane Arraf, CNN, Baghdad.” As Jordan acknowledged, this squalid tradeoff cost real lives. Once the terms of doing business with Saddam were clear, they should have gotten out. But CNN willingly conceded the right to report any news for what it saw as the far more valuable right to be allowed to continue to appear as if it were reporting the news.

CNN’s slogan is ”The Most Trusted Name In News,” which rings a little hollow now. I like the counter-slogans doing the rounds on talk-radio: ”No Blood For News.” [Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/20/03]

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