CNN Anchor's Hezbollah Hollaback via Twitter Costs Another Media Job

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Things People Say That Cost Them Their Media Jobs, CNN Edition: In the great and recent tradition of White House Press Correspondent Helen Thomas, and Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel, for the third time this summer, someone has said something that has more or less cost them their job once the appropriate amount of outrage has been put on the hotplate. Is this the Summer of Dangerous RealTalk?

Mediaite's Steve Krakauer gets the scoop that CNN's Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs, Octavia Nasr, is being kicked to the curb by the network following the outrage that a Tweet of hers caused. Krakauer reports with an internal memo:

From Parisa Khosravi - SVP CNN International Newsgathering

I had a conversation with Octavia this morning and I want to share with you that we have decided that she will be leaving the company. As you know, her tweet over the weekend created a wide reaction. As she has stated in her blog on CNN.com, she fully accepts that she should not have made such a simplistic comment without any context whatsoever. However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.

And what was the Tweet?

As Mediaite editor Glynnis MacNicol also noted: That's a twenty-year career with CNN done in by

One.
Single.
Tweet.

The reason for The Outrage It Caused is that Hezbollah is more or less seen by the majority of political bodies in the world as a terrorist organization. That's for them to decide! Despite the simple fact that all she did was note that she could "respect" this terrorist -- which isn't even connotative of anything more than being impressed by one's ability to Mess Everything Up (Globally) -- and despite the fact that she did make a concerted effort to explain herself and backpedal on her remarks, The Internet's Outrage was enough to derail this woman's career.

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The timing is almost too perfect: Rumors of Anderson Cooper bouncing out of CNN were just squashed last week, but this is after Campbell Brown resigned for not being able to do anything with her spot at the network, and of course, the hiring of Eliot Spitzer to co-anchor Loveline or whatever CNN eventually lined up for him. But the best timing-related hilarity here is NYU Journalism Professor/Guru Jay Rosen's piece in this month's Esquire about five ways CNN could save itself, which is like coming up with various ways to put air into a balloon. The first, of course:

1. Drop the chronic impartiality.

CNN is brain-dead. They have worked themselves into an intellectual trap of having no particular point of view; they have convinced themselves that they can't become right-wing like Fox or left-wing like MSNBC. As Jon Stewart demonstrated, CNN airs a dispute in which one side may be insane -- the Earth is flat -- but the anchors fail to explain who is right. They need to cure this problem of "leaving it there," because it's killing them -- it's killing their brand, it's killing trust, it's lazy, it's superficial, and it's an audience loser.

Well, doesn't look like they're taking that route any time soon, though they're managing to hold on to some pretty recognizable faces when they're not making supposedly "edgy" hires meant to generally piss off flyover country. This is what happens when media companies try to please everyone but themselves: a zero-sum game. Meanwhile, the same arguments that followed Dave Weigel and Helen Thomas' respective ousters will continue to persist: Are people who work in a supposedly "impartial media" -- a nuance-lacking falsity everyone either has to wake up to or stop drumming around with Salinger-backpocketing conspiracy theorists as an Illuminati Conspiracy -- be allowed to actually have, you know, opinions? The way it's looking lately, apparently, no. Not so much.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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