CNN un­der fire for threat to re­veal Red­di­tor’s ID

Net­work con­di­tions pri­vacy on be­hav­ior

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

Me­dia ethi­cists and watch­dogs are crit­i­ciz­ing CNN for con­di­tion­ing the anonymity of a pri­vate cit­i­zen on his speak­ing and acting in a way ap­proved by the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar news net­work.

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on In­de­pen­dence Day, An­drew Kaczyn­ski, se­nior ed­i­tor of CNN’s KFile, tracked down the Red­dit user who made a short video mock­ing CNN that Pres­i­dent Trump gave wide cir­cu­la­tion to in a tweet on last Sun­day.

Mr. Kaczyn­ski de­clined to re­veal the video-maker’s iden­tity — cit­ing the man’s apol­ogy, re­morse and fear of reprisal — but said CNN “re­serves the right” to do so in the fu­ture “should any of that change.”

Indira Lak­sh­manan, New­mark Chair in Jour­nal­ism Ethics at the Poyn­ter In­sti­tute for Me­dia Stud­ies, said at­tach­ing con­di­tions to an av­er­age per­son’s pri­vacy is “strange” and “trou­bling” be­hav­ior for a news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“What I find trou­bling is the sen­tence that says, ‘ CNN re­serves the right to pub­lish his iden­tity should any of that change,’” Ms. Lak­sh­manan said. “Why? I don’t un­der­stand that sen­tence. I’ve never seen that in a story be­fore.”

She said she had no prob­lem with CNN find­ing out who made the video, equat­ing post­ing on­line com­ments to stand­ing on a soap­box and shout­ing in the pub­lic square.

“Just be­cause you want to use an alias and an anony­mous han­dle doesn’t mean that, if what you say be­comes news­wor­thy and gets picked up and tweeted by the pres­i­dent, that you don’t sud­denly be­come news,” she said. “Yeah, you be­come news.”

“But the strange thing is say­ing we re­serve the right if you re­turn to your pre­vi­ous be­hav­ior,” she con­tin­ued. “That is strange. That I don’t un­der­stand. Why not just say, ‘This per­son asked not to have his name re­leased, and we com­plied’?”

CNN de­nounced the pres­i­dent af­ter he tweeted the video, which de­picted Mr. Trump at a World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment event from 2007 tack­ling a man who had CNN’s logo su­per­im­posed on his face.

The net­work said the video would “en­cour­age vi­o­lence against re­porters.”

Brent Bozell, pres­i­dent of the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter, said CNN over­re­acted to the video.

“This is CNN that has been so em­bar­rassed, it has over­re­acted so badly to that silly ‘Smack­down’ video — which I wish the pres­i­dent hadn’t done — but they’ve over­re­acted so badly by sug­gest­ing that it’s fos­ter­ing vi­o­lence against the me­dia, that they’re try­ing to find the up­per hand on this,” Mr. Bozell said Wed­nes­day on Fox Business Net­work’s “Var­ney and Co.”

CNN ig­nited a firestorm on Twit­ter on when they pub­lished the ar­ti­cle, with fig­ures rang­ing from Don­ald Trump Jr. to Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange weigh­ing in on the con­tro­versy.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Repub­li­can, said the At­lanta-based com­pany may have bro­ken a Georgia law pro­hibit­ing ex­tor­tion.

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day, CNN said any “as­ser­tion that the net­work black­mailed or co­erced him is false.”

The ar­ti­cle is just the lat­est black eye for a net­work that has emerged as Mr. Trump’s fa­vorite “fake news” punch­ing bag.

Last month, CNN was forced to apol­o­gize and re­tract a re­port say­ing the head of a Rus­sian in­vest­ment fund, who met with a mem­ber of Trump’s tran­si­tion team be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion, was un­der con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Three se­nior jour­nal­ists at the net­work re­signed over the story, which CNN said did not meet its ed­i­to­rial stan­dards.

In the fol­low­ing days, Project Ver­i­tas be­gan re­leas­ing un­der­cover videos from its “Amer­i­can Pravda” se­ries show­ing CNN pro­duc­ers and on-air per­son­al­i­ties ques­tion­ing the net­work’s non­stop cov­er­age of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh said it’s the “end of CNN.”

“You turn the crit­i­cism on them, and they can’t han­dle it,” Mr. Lim­baugh said on his show Wed­nes­day. “They can’t even han­dle be­ing laughed at, much less be­ing crit­i­cized. And now they’re ap­plaud­ing them­selves for their great in­ves­tiga­tive work in un­cov­er­ing and ex­pos­ing this poor guy who made the video of Don­ald Trump body slam­ming the CNN logo.

“They clearly do not know how to deal with Trump,” the ra­dio com­men­ta­tor said.

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