Mitch and Dan R. weigh in on CNN’s decision to pull the plug on the independent weblog from Iraq by one of its employees, Kevin Sites.
Writes Mitch in Old media minds, new media disruption:
I keep seeing the worst in journalism displayed during this war. I’ve also seen many examples of big media — and new and old — refusing to think and act differently up close and personal. There is an explicit assumption by the people running Web sites that reporters and reports should be the same as they’ve always been. They will talk about the desire to change, but get to the point where actual change is required and they back away fast.
Time for new media-making companies. That’s what’s next. Having swallowed most of the Web, the old media companies are sitting back and thinking they’ve got it tamed. It’s the perfect time to start screwing with media reality, again, the way Pulitzer, Hearst, Sarnoff and Paley did before. Doing this does not mean just embracing new ways of reporting the news, but also marketing the hell out of the product you create.
Dead on. Meantime, can’t agree with Dan R’s conclusion:
Sites is an employee, and CNN is utterly with its rights to suggest that he should be concentrating on filing to the network rather than his blog. What goes on between Sites and his employer is between them, and none of us jeering from the sidelines can claim to know that dynamic.
Fact is, no employer owns an employee’s free time. If CNN wants to work Kevin Sites 18 hours a day, fine. The other six hours are his. And if he wants to spend part of that time informing and communicating with the rest of the world via his weblog, that’s his choice. The neanderthals still in charge of most Old Media outlets can’t quite process this fact.
Dan G., Brandon and Jason K. disagree, saying that Kevin is over there on CNN’s dime, so CNN should own all his time and efforts. I’ll grant that Kevin’s entry into Iraq is due to his CNN connection, but CNN is still showing poor judgment by pulling the plug. How can we say that a corporate power play like this is more important than adding to the information flow out of the war zone? The question isn’t corporate prerogatives. The question is: Isn’t informing the public the whole point of being over there? Rusty’s right — if CNN was smart they would have pulled this blog under their umbrella.
The outcry in the blog community says a couple of things: Business as usual won’t cut it anymore. And CNN is fostering a dangerous precedent by clamping down on an independent journalism weblog by one of its own. How far does CNN’s claimed dominance over its employer’s free time extend? Is he allowed to keep a diary? Can he email friends and family on his own time describing what he has seen? If Kevin had the notion to take his employers to court — he clearly doesn’t — and if he’s blogging using his own equipment, and if he’s not writing for the competition (if anything, his blog would drive more traffic to CNN), he would likely win. There are ample precedents that an employer-employee relationship ends at the end of the workday, however long it is.
Dan R. and Mitch, meantime, are having a fascinating back and forth on journalism and war coverage.
Later: Here’s Metafilter’s thread on l’affair Sites.
Also, old friend Susan Mernit, late of AOL/Netscape, wrote Wednesday in her new blog:
I spoke to an old friend who is a highly placed news executive at CNN and asked him whether CNN.com was planning to link to Kevin’s blog. His response: “CNN is interested in a more structured presentation of the news than blogging offers. We will present online photo galleries, brekaing news stories, video and text as a way to give our audience immediate access to new about the war in Iraq.
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