CNN’s Octavia Nasr made headlines after her July 4 tweet about Muhammad Hussein Fadl-Allāh, saying that the Hezbollah leader was a ‘giant she respects a lot.’ Nasr was dismissed by the cable network a few days later because her work as a journalist was compromised, even after she blogged an explanation.
Nasr admits that her tweet was an error in judgment and it conveyed the wrong context. Rightly so, but an experienced journalist such as herself should have known better. We all make mistakes and certain snafus easily can reach national exposure given today’s Internet- and cable-based, 24/7 news cycle. Nasr’s tweet certainly was one of those situations.
Blogs, podcasts and even Twitter are impacting the way news is covered and consumed. Journalists are using new media to supplement their reporting, while more people are getting their news and information from the Web. The result is a line that has become increasingly blurred between opinion-based news and unbiased investigative journalism.
Not at CNN. The line is pretty clear or at least that’s the message the cable network wants to communicate. Heck, a long-time reporter covering Middle Eastern affairs was canned just because of a tweet. Quite frankly, the fact that Fadlallah was on a U.S. ‘terrorist’ list may have had made Nasr’s departure an easier decision for the network.
Was CNN right? It’s hard to tell. They maintained their objectivity (or perception thereof) but lost a good reporter as a result. Who knows? The Atlanta-based cable network may have done nothing if Nasr’s tweet didn’t become national news.
CNN has positioned itself as a true news organization, totally separate from networks with more opinion-based shows like MSNBC and Fox News, which actually make news off each other’s broadcasts. This is CNN’s niche, regardless of what network is more profitable, although that can be a good gauge to determine a successful strategy.
There is no opinion in straight news reporting. Journalists have worked hard to keep their personal beliefs out of news stories for decades. New media like blogs and tweets on the other hand are rooted in a notion, whether it is 300 words or 140 characters. As a result, a “fusion” has occurred between new and traditional media creating an entirely different news environment that continues to evolve. For CNN however, the line in the sand is pretty clear.