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Chez Pazienza

Chez Pazienza

Posted: May 30, 2008 06:09 PM

Jessica Yellin 180°


Well, that didn't take long.

Today on the network's website, there's a noticeably terse statement from CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin attempting to, ahem, "clarify" her admission, made a couple of nights ago on Anderson Cooper 360°, that during the run-up to the Iraq war, she was pressured into altering or killing stories that were critical of the White House.

Yellin makes a point to reassure viewers that she wasn't at CNN back in 2003 -- she was a pentagon reporter for MSNBC at the time -- then flips a pretty sharp U-turn from her previous claim:

"Let me say: No, senior corporate leadership never asked me to take out a line in a script or re-write an anchor intro. I did not mean to leave the impression that corporate executives were interfering in my daily work; my interaction was with senior producers. What was clear to me is that many people running the broadcasts wanted coverage that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the country at the time. It was clear to me they wanted their coverage to reflect the mood of the country."

The statement ends, amusingly, with Yellin saying, "And now I'm going back to work covering the Puerto Rico primary from San Juan."

From which I'll never return.

What makes Jessica Yellin's "clarification" so much fun is that you can almost see the gun being pointed at her head by CNN management as you read her words. She may as well be staring nervously through a crack in the doorway, telling the cop who just pulled up, "Oh no officer, I was a little upset when I made that phone call. There's nothing wrong. Everything's fine in here." Yellin hopes to deflect attention away from the executives who truly call the shots and set the mood in today's newsrooms and onto the mid-level pawns who are in constant and direct contact with her on a daily basis -- the problem of course being that edicts roll down from the top; who the hell do you think is making it clear to the senior producers the direction the broadcasts need to be going in?

Without realizing it, Yellin may have just helped to illustrate a pretty repugnant truism within the rubric of corporate journalism these days: Everything seems designed to insulate the people at the top, protecting them from exposure to accountability. The only factor that truly has the ability to affect the lives of the executives in the adminisphere or their corporate overlords is the ratings. The numbers are the end that will always justify the means; what those means may be is irrelevant -- not when ad revenue is at stake. If you think it's something bordering on tragic that the hierarchy within most modern news operations works like the Mafia -- or maybe Congress -- you're right.

For just a moment, Jessica Yellin spoke her mind and pulled back the curtain to reveal the reality of what went on within America's spineless news media during the rush to war -- then thought the better of it and either through subtle coercion or with the unfortunate knowledge that her career may be on the line, "corrected" herself.

Regardless, anyone with a brain knew the truth all along anyway -- and still does.

(By the way, the link to Yellin's statement was sent to me by a senior producer within CNN whom I've never met. Gotta love that.)

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