“It is clear that within the United States there is growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war … The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan.”
Pulitzer-prize winning news reporter Peter Arnett has just lost his job with NBC for appearing in an interview with Iraqi state TV. The reason is that his actions have ‘affected his objectivity’.
Darned right it has. That was probably the most objective thing I’ve heard for the whole month. Kudos to the Mirror (who aren’t that neutral themselves, being pretty anti-war about the whole affair… but who cares? Everybody’s biased, it’s just a question of how honest you are about it).
Because of the nature of this report I’ve scoured several news sources, each having a slightly different take on the affair. I don’t suggest reading anything from the network which just fired him. You would notice by now that networks are willing to report on anything which boosts their ratings – unless it is news about themselves.
Across the Atlantic, the Media Guardian takes a step back to assess the sticky situation. Along with the Financial Times, it notes what some US news sources don’t: NBC initially defended Arnett, then change their minds after receiving ‘several thousand protest messages’ (according to UPI). I guess when you’re in the throes of patriotism, every expression of doubt is an act of treachery.
[ Update: Slate analyses this duality and holds that he shouldn’t be sacked for giving his opinion but for being overawed by the whole interview. ]
(Tangential thought: If there is truth in a message, can it still be classified as propaganda?)
And at the other end of the globe, ABC Online (Australia) has an audio interview with the fallen hero of Gulf War 1.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Grizzled veteran Walter Cronkite speculates that Arnett had an ulterior motive in accepting the interview. Granted, he did suck up to the Iraqis by praising them for their ‘cooperation’. However the NYTimes also attributes these misdemeanours to network executive ‘greediness’ for good ratings, and adds that NBC would’ve done better sticking by the man they had, until now, depended upon.
I’d like to see what happens to Geraldo Rivera. It would seem disproportionately unfair if Arnett lost his job for speaking his mind / the truth to the enemy, while Rivera simply has to leave Iraq … for divulging sensitive military information which could have put coalition troops in danger.
The Straits Times:
‘I think most of those vilifying him are Americans and they are caught up in a form of journalism that is more akin to patriotic journalism rather than professional journalism.’