Thursday, July 8, 2010

Your News Buddies from Atlanta

So Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor of Middle East affairs, got fired for paying tribute to Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Hezbollah's "spiritual mentor" who died last weekend. She paid this tribute in a tweet from her @ocativianasrCNN account, remarking "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah...One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

Do I have a problem with Octavia Nasr being fired for just one tweet? Yes! Do I approve of her - now infamous - Giant Fadlallah tweet? No! Here's why.

Octavia Nasr being fired is the result of CNN's failed communication policies. In a desperate attempt to gain a new audience, or not to lose the one they have left, CNN crossed over into social media such as Twitter and positioned its reporters and analysts as "your news buddy from Atlanta". This concept was wrong from the beginning and still is. It is, in my opinion, just not working and a bad thing for the future of sincere journalism.

CNN has tons of Twitter accounts and they have their employees set up with accounts too. Instead of embedding themselves with the US army fighting in Iraq (a failed concept as well), they embedded themselves with their viewers at home. You have Isha Sesay (@IshaSesayCNN) telling you that she is now going to the gym and that you will see her afterwards in the studio, doing serious news business. You have Hala Gorani (@HalaGorani) taking a picture of a laughing Fionnuala Sweeney (no Twitter account!) and sending it to followers worldwide. And you have Rosemary Church (hello, I'm Rosemary Church, but call me Rosemary, @rosemaryCNN) tweeting to @cocotteloup "Bonjour mon amie! Gr8 2 hear from u. Friday's looking good?" and announcing in her next tweet "A woman in #Iran faces execution by stoning 4 adultery." (Yes, 4 for for.)

Give me a break, folks in Atlanta. Serious journalism doesn't work that way. Twitter is a medium that is short, brash, provocative and often unfair in its short cuts. Insightful, true journalism and cozying up to the public through social media is an contradicition in itself. It is a big time manipulation of an unwary audience, letting them believe that your analysis, or CNN's for that matter, is somewhat more accurate and balanced than other's just because you are such an approachable, nice guy on Twitter. Seymour Hersh isn't on Twitter either, telling us what he ate for lunch!

Octavia Nasr has paid a heavy price for her one-time 140 characters. This is unfair. But she hasn't given up and you will find her now tweeting under @octavianasr (just that, no CNN) as her own person with the right to have her own opinion, not affiliated with any big mean media machine. This is great and I wish for everyone to be able to express his or her take on things, like I do here (it feels liberating!). Octavia has protected her tweets but I have sent a request and I hope I will be listened (although she has so far never responded to my replies I had sent to her old account....LOL).