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cnn fires veteran producer for blogging

February 21st, 2008 · 3 Comments

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CNN has fired a well-respected, Emmy-winning producer for blogging, raising the question of whether journalists who voice their opinions outside the newsroom are too biased to report the news.

In April 2006, producer Chez Pazienza started a blog to keep his mind sharp following brain surgery. As his site grew in popularity, Pazienza insists that “I hadn’t divulged my place of work and wasn’t writing about what went on at the office.” Apparently, that wasn’t enough to keep CNN from firing him anyway, allegedly without warning. Now he’s mad as hell and is using the blog that got him sacked to attack the industry and the network that he feels gave him a raw deal. His response to the firing actually makes for a pretty interesting read. Here’s a sample:

CNN fired me, and did it without even a thought to the power that I might wield as an average person with a brain, a computer, and an audience. The mainstream media doesn’t believe that new media can embarrass them, hurt them or generally hold them accountable in any way, and they’ve never been more wrong.

I’m suddenly in a position to do all three, and I know now that this is what I’ve been working toward the last few years of my career.

He actually seems to be succeeding, and the New York Times and others are picking up his story. Pazienza’s frustration extends beyond CNN to the way American news is reported, and anyone familiar with CNN or Fox will agree with him on this one:

“I watched the media in general do anything within reason to scare the hell out of the American public — to convince people that they were about to be infected by the bird flu, poisoned by the food supply, or eaten by sharks. I marveled at our elevation of the death of Anna Nicole Smith to near-mythic status and our willingness to let the airwaves be taken hostage by every permutation of opportunistic degenerate from a crying judge to a Hollywood hanger-on with an emo haircut. I watched qualified, passionate people worked nearly to death while mindless talking heads were coddled. I listened to Lou Dobbs play the loud-mouthed fascist demagogue, Nancy Grace fake ratings-baiting indignation, and Glenn Beck essentially do nightly stand-up — and that’s not even taking into account the 24/7 Vaudeville act over at Fox News. I watched The Daily Show laugh not at our mistakes but at our intentional absurdity.”

It’s vindicating somehow to hear a (former) CNN producer say that. He could also have thrown in rattlesnakes scares, shoe bombs, amber alerts and Tucker Carlson.

The free-spirited reporter in me thinks the whole thing is a travesty, and that society doesn’t benefit when journalists hide the opinions they invariably have – in my experience, reporters are just about the best-informed, most opinionated bunch you’ll ever care to meet. Still, I can see how CNN wouldn’t appreciate this in the online bio of one of its producers:

I wake up every morning baffled as to why America hasn’t deported George Bush and Dick Cheney, Hollywood hasn’t stopped trying to convince me that Sarah Jessica Parker is attractive, gullible soccer moms haven’t realized that they share absolutely no kinship with Oprah, and Fox canceled Firefly.

__________________________

Speaking of Tucker Carlson, here’s a fantastic clip of Jon Stewart blasting CNN live on the network’s own Crossfire.

Incidentally, Carlson is the guy who made headlines in Canada and elsewhere for spewing such gems as:

  • “Canada’s essentially a made-in-Taiwan version of the United States”;
  • “the average Canadian is busy dogsledding”; and who could forget
  • “without the U.S., Canada is essentially Honduras, but colder and much less interesting.”

Tags: darn tootin\' · journalism · media · news

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 B // Feb 21, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    There are lots of interesting points in this post and in the issue itself (which is often what frustrates me about simplistic debates: that is, how they ask a question without acknowledging that it’s a compounded issue). But if I ultimately boil it down to a simple question of whether or not a journalist should be blogging, my answer is no. There is enough bias in the news already. If someone wants to maintain their objectivity I think it’s in their professional interest to avoid editorializing. (I think that a fair related question might be whether or not the producer was identifiable based on the blog. If so, then I think CNN was justified. If not then the case might be a little harder to make, in practice.)

  • 2 mark // Feb 22, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I don’t think there’s a journalist on earth who can truthfully claim to be objective – all she can do is try to present all sides of an issue fairly regardless of how she feels about them. Back in my journalism school days, they always told us that it would be wise not to join political parties or actively lobby for anything – not so we could preserve our neutrality, but so that we would be seen as neutral, in spite of the opinions that journalists invariably develop as intelligent, informed people.

    Anyone who spends as much time and energy learning about the world around them as a (good) reporter does is bound to develop feelings about the way things are run – and who should be running them. The question is whether the public is better-served when the journalists make their opinions clear, rather than pretending they aren’t there. Certainly the networks and newspapers aren’t, as the public airing of journalists’ views undermines the news media’s claims of objectivity. But they’re false claims to begin with, and if you’re reading an article about the Democratic primaries, don’t you want to know the political leanings of the fellow who wrote it?

  • 3 Rawda // Feb 22, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    All I know is that to be a reporter, you are expected to report news. Period. Maybe this is harsh, but this is exactly why people go to journalism school for years. They learn the correct lingo and get some exposure and critique from peers and profs so that they become capable to report honestly what’s happening around the world. I mean if reporters are allowed to speak their minds, then I can become one tonight! (Trust me- I’m strongly opinionated and I don’t shut up :))
    We need news, not opinions by Tucker and Oprah. Every night, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I flip through over a hundred channels to get a decent piece of news that’s not about the States or Canada. I can know what’s happening around me; I just care about world news too! Oh and btw, every night, without fail, I end up watching family guy and scrubs in stead!

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