CNN Editor Resigns Following Controversial Tweet About Hezbollah Leader
CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs Octavia Nasr agreed to leave the company after tweeting that she “respected” Lebanese cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who is often credited as being an inspiration for the Hezbollah militant movement.
The tweet, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot,” erupted a slew of reactions on Twitter. Two days after the tweet, Nasr tried to explain her tweets and apologize in a blog post. Despite being a prolific and savvy Twitter() user, Nasr called the incident “a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”
She tried to explain what she meant by “respect,” and convey more fully the context behind her tweet, noting that Fadlallah took a “contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights.” However, in an internal memo SVP for CNN International Newsgathering Parisa Khosravi announced Nasr would be leaving the company as a result of her comments, citing that her credibility has been compromised.
The event may be a reminder that sometimes 140 characters is just not enough for expression, and that context is perhaps even important when tailoring your message for a mass audience on the viral web. Publishing is publishing, no matter the media used to broadcast. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, whether it is a TV segment or a burst of 140 characters. We are, after all, in an age in which we consume media in multiple streams and channels.
But what the incident also brings up is the question of bias and opinion in newsrooms across the country. Should journalists continue to pursue the elusive goal of impartial objectivity? Or should journalists be upfront about their opinions with their audience? Where is the balance?
Complete objectivity has always been a mystical creature as elusive as the Lochness Monster of Big Foot. Journalists are like any other people with opinions. But the longstanding pursuit has been to avoid the opinion to get in the way of news-gathering and reporting; to approach the story with the idea of an impartial observer, something that is perhaps unattainable.
And the web is clearly shifting the standards and expectations of such a standard with blogs adding a clear voice to and perspective to the news. Of course, this often comes at a cost of getting only one side of the story, but at the same time opinion often adds value to the conversation and holds people accountable, especially in the case of analysis of a complex issue. Regardless, reporters and journalists should be clear and transparent with their readers, setting a clear expectation about the information they are consuming.
What do you think? Should Nasr have been fired? And whether the statement was taken out of context or not, should journalists clearly express their opinions and be upfront about their biases?
Disclosure: Mashable() has a content partnership with CNN.