CNN censors reporter Kevin Sites' weblog from Iraq.
March 21, 2003 3:36 PM   Subscribe

CNN censors reporter Kevin Sites' weblog from Iraq. He has been ordered by CNN to cease weblogging until further notice, and has also added a disclaimer to his website.
"Note: Kevin Sites is a CNN correspondent, but this is a personal website not affiliated with, endorsed by, or funded by CNN. "
posted by insomnia_lj (32 comments total)
 
insomnia_lj what is to discuss, our theories. Ok here is one, more folks tune into his blog than cnn. Any links to some other blogs. Yes insommia, your post is fine, enjoyed his blog as it seemed open-minded.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:48 PM on March 21, 2003


insomnia_lj
posted by thomcatspike at 3:49 PM on March 21, 2003


I don't see why CNN has a legit reason to make him stop logging. I think it's pretty safe to say that more people watch CNN than read a weblog.
posted by Kevin Sanders at 4:11 PM on March 21, 2003


It's not "censoring" by CNN. It's typical breach of contract things.

CNN pays the guy to be a war correspondent. Having a weblog with insider war info is basically moonlighting on CNN's dime, and I wasn't surprised to see him stop blogging as soon as the fighting started. I was actually going to post something to my own blog this morning, speculating that I bet CNN asks him to stop (I hadn't seen any posts in days, wondered what they thought of him stealing their thunder, etc), but then saw his message.

I think if any media correspondent in Iraq wants to blog their experiences, the only way we'll see it (the general public) is if they do it anonymously (see also: dear_raed) or accidentally (see Laurie Garrett).
posted by mathowie at 4:14 PM on March 21, 2003


I don't see why CNN has a legit reason to make him stop logging.

Whenever I have taken a paid writing gig, it was for virgin material that I hadn't written anywhere else, and wouldn't republish anywhere else afterwards. Pretty standard contract stuff.

The stuff Kevin might cover on his blog, and what he might do for CNN as a paid employee probably had quite a bit of overlap. What would have been cooler of CNN would have been if they sponsored his blog, stuffed it at a cnn.com/blogs URL and let him go to town.
posted by mathowie at 4:17 PM on March 21, 2003


It has been about 24 hours since the BBC war blog was last updated.

I would bet US$5 that the reporters have been politely asked or instructed by their military contacts to refrain from blogging.
posted by tomharpel at 4:24 PM on March 21, 2003


Because weblogging on CNN's dime is a mighty big dime!

Who know what multitudes of money it costs CNN to allow Kevin Sites to post to a weblog.

Now, back to Wolf Blitzer.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2003


for virgin material that I hadn't written anywhere else
Makes sense.

by their military contacts to refrain from blogging.

Saw news piece on this, the military has been allowed to be with the military live...in trying to keep up with the times.

If you read, dear_raed, he timed the latest bombing in Baghdad pretty much on target; The most disturbing news today has come from Al-Jazeera, they said that nine B52 bombers have left the airfield in Britain and flying “presumably” towards Iraq, as if they would be doing a spin around the block. Anyway they have 6 hours to get here.
originally it said posted about, 3:13pm . Baghdad was bombed around 9pm their time. Now this posted time has since changed.{going to send an e-mail on the topic, why able to remember}. So unless they turn off the internet not sure if the military can stop this stuff as they seem to have allowed it.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:35 PM on March 21, 2003


looked at his archive, salam 3:13 PM
posted by thomcatspike at 4:37 PM on March 21, 2003


The CNN News Standards and Practices guide essentially says that you can't do these things without approval. (I'd quote, but the guide itself says that its information is confidential.) I've had an offer from an online magazine to write a behind-the-scenes feature about CNN, and suffice it to say that CNN management did not approve it, so it never appeared. (and...I'd say that CNN has the right to avoide the appearance of conflicts of interest.)

Matt's right on: it's a contract thing, and it'd be interesting as hell if CNN would sponsor and host his blog -- it's really no different (except that it's more comprehensive) than their "Behind the Scenes" reports.

(note: I work for CNN, but I don't speak for them. Nor do they speak for me.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:39 PM on March 21, 2003


sheesh...the military the journalist have
been allowed to be with the military

posted by thomcatspike at 4:40 PM on March 21, 2003


We need a good Ernie Pyle and a Good Fight to fight.

Too bad CNN's not interested in candid, outside of photo-op and fireball, discussion.
posted by crasspastor at 4:46 PM on March 21, 2003


actually, it's up to each unit's commander to decide what they will and won't let their embedded reporters show.
posted by Vidiot at 4:51 PM on March 21, 2003


tomharpel, no conspiracy. They just change the URL every day (Bad BBC!). You have to go back to the main BBC site and click on the link again to get today's postings. Lots of good stuff today.
posted by smackfu at 4:54 PM on March 21, 2003


If it's not censorship, it's certainly pulling the plug.

Kevin's weblog is non-commercial. His only crime is calling in to audblog and sharing his perspective with his site's visitors, as opposed to sending email or leaving messages on his friend's voicemail. By definition, both email and voicemail could probably be seen as also violating his contractual obligations to CNN too, if they really wanted to push it.

The fact of the matter is that CNN had the choice as to how to approach the idea of allowing their reporters to have weblogs and they failed the test. The contracts that CNN has with its reporters are no more or less "real" than the ones that most businesses have with employees. In a strict legal sense, I would expect that most employees could be either compelled to stop weblogging or could be fired for it. Few of us would disagree that when this happens, however, it is wrong.

And rightly so... It's another case of businesses misusing the power they have over their employees to "control the story", to prevent the airing of non-approved perspectives, or simply to allow their employees to present themselves as real humans with their own quirks, foibles, and eccentricities.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:59 PM on March 21, 2003


Kevin was crazy to include photos of real people. Best to stick to exploding buildings, Tomahawk launches, and lighthearted interviews with the troops. That's how you keep viewers happy.

Journalism is a business afterall. As long as we don't pretend we're getting the truth or the whole story out of them the better.
posted by skallas at 6:24 PM on March 21, 2003


And you know. It's our buck not CNN's that pays Kevin Sites' contractual salary. It's the consumer that deserves the truth as it is our work in good faith which affords us the products his employer advertises. The viewer with money to spend is what keeps them in business. They may profit but everyone else loses in this paradigm. Because when we no longer have any money, we no longer get our news.

Win-Win Baby!
posted by crasspastor at 6:29 PM on March 21, 2003


Only the Government has the power to censor.
posted by stbalbach at 6:53 PM on March 21, 2003


It's our buck not CNN's that pays Kevin Sites' contractual salary.

Can I have a raise, then?

This kind of logic is like telling the cop that pulls you over to let you go because he works for you. (Try it and see how far it gets you.) What you're ignoring is that it's a competitive business -- when there are multiple news organizations, it's not a zero-sum game.
posted by Vidiot at 7:03 PM on March 21, 2003


If you want Kevin to keep reporting on his site, organise a collection to buy off his contract with CNN. Or get him to put a PayPal link for the same purpose.
posted by riviera at 7:29 PM on March 21, 2003


actually, it's up to each unit's commander to decide what they will and won't let their embedded reporters.

In other words, government propaganda, spin. I'm listening to this week's show of This American Life--

Gulf War vet Anthony Swofford (author of the war memoir Jarhead) watches and critiques the TV coverage. Sarah Vowell tells the story of the first time the United States invaded another country to enact "regime change" and free an oppressed people. It was back in 1898 and in the long run, didn't work out so well. An Iraqi explains what it's like to hate Saddam Hussein and have the U.S. dropping bombs on your city.

In the teaser, Swofford was expressing total disgust at the coverage--all the soldiers were giving completely scripted lines.

His example was gas mask drills. He said that when he and his fellow Marines--whose reaction each time was raw unadulterated fear--went through putting on and off gas masks eight or nine times a day, they were swearing a blue streak by the second or third time--Who's the fucking asshole that fucked this one up? He saw an embedded correspondent slow pitch a question about gas mask drills to some photogenic young soldier who said a well rehearsed Oh, no, it's just part of our job, sir in a mild even tone, he knew he wasn't going to see or hear a shred of truth of what it was like to be there.

What you're ignoring is that it's a competitive business -- when there are multiple news organizations, it's not a zero-sum game.

When multiple news organizations put out the same scripted spin, it's mass produced privatized propaganda--not news. It may be a competitive business but it's not journalism

I'm listening to David Sedaris right now--heh, he mentioned how they haven't renamed their DVDs Liberty Gigolo and Freedom Graffiti. The French are just not that worked up about us and our Francophobe jingoism--they just feel sad, watching a people for whom they have respect and affection go insane with hate. God, I know how they feel.
posted by y2karl at 7:37 PM on March 21, 2003


riviera, even if you could buy out his contract I doubt CNN will enjoy being undercut. Then he has the rest of his career to consider.

"Oh you're the guy with no company loyalty? Don't call us, we'll call you."
posted by skallas at 7:37 PM on March 21, 2003


On a related note: interesting piece on how Arthur Kent went "indie" after the Gulf War.
posted by skallas at 7:39 PM on March 21, 2003


No offense, but I would hate to have my salary paid from people who read my blog -- no matter how popular it might be. Why not write to CNN and ask for them to either host his blog or allow him o continue posting?

on preview: y2karl, my comment was made in reaction to crasspastor's economic analysis. Hasn't MeFi discussed the pros and cons of embedding before? I'm not trying to be nasty...but I don't quite see how your comment relates to CNN's asking Sites to stop blogging.
posted by Vidiot at 7:45 PM on March 21, 2003


err, make that "allow him to continue posting."
posted by Vidiot at 7:46 PM on March 21, 2003


No doubt it's a fine line between working for a company and a personal diary based on the same dime [used to be a nickle, you understand inflation]. Seems the company may differ on the editorial content from that same employee. The poor public may become confused. As if.

Didn't realize that a correspondent is owned 24/7 by their employer when sent to cover a story.

I have been reading cbc online and understand they have no embed reporters in this war. The online, radio one is providing complete war coverage all the time. Regular programming has been preempted. Highly recommended for those jonesing for a different point of view.

I have emailed CNN voicing my disappointment and urging them to reconsider! WTH [what the hell]
posted by alicesshoe at 8:14 PM on March 21, 2003


riviera, even if you could buy out his contract I doubt CNN will enjoy being undercut. Then he has the rest of his career to consider.

True. Though my general point was something like: even though war correspondents chase after gunfire as if they were dogs in search of a juicy steak, they still get paid for dancing in the line of fire. (And will get their minibar expenses at the Baghdad Hilton settled for them.) And so they should.
posted by riviera at 8:29 PM on March 21, 2003


I think it's obvious that CNN is mainly interested in dollars here. Kevin started his blog on March 9, the same day CNN ran a "behind-the-scenes" story about "E-war coverage." If Kevin is giving the stuff away for free, it devalues CNN's product. The increased media coverage of Sites' blog after the war began could only highlight the money question for CNN execs. If CNN paid his travel costs and is picking up the tab for his food, lodging and possible burial expenses, Sites has no grounds for complaint, really.

The sooner more truly independent journalists like Christopher Allbritton get to Iraq, the better.
posted by mediareport at 11:45 PM on March 21, 2003


How odd... a reporter choose to keep his job and salary rather than provide free content to a niche group of readers. Guys got some nerve listening to his employer.

Before passing judgement it might be useful to know something about the terms of his contract.
posted by cedar at 5:22 AM on March 22, 2003


I think if any media correspondent in Iraq wants to blog their experiences, the only way we'll see it (the general public) is if they do it anonymously (see also: dear_raed) [...] mathowie

have i missed something? is "salam pax" a journalist (or is this just a reference to anonmymity?)?
posted by andrew cooke at 3:22 PM on March 22, 2003


I'd call Salam's approach journalistic, andrew. Personal journalism, sure, but he's got the instinct down.
posted by mediareport at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2003


ok (i agree he(?)'s a good read - i just thought maybe he'd been identified or something).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:20 PM on March 22, 2003


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