CNN cofounder Reese Schonfeld has taken the TV news outlets to task for failing to assign a full-time correspondent to the intelligence beat. Noting that no reporters have yet rigorously questioned “apologists for the intelligence establishment” who have claimed that the CIA’s hands have been tied by rules against assassinations imposed by former President Gerald Ford, Schonfeld observes that Bill Clinton told Tom Brokaw Tuesday night that those rules apply only to heads of state. “It’s the job of the press as an impartial referee to report whether Clinton is right or the CIA apologists are right. Somebody should do it right now.”
Meanwhile, TV news organizations are also being castigated for failing to devote sufficient time to foreign news reporting in general, particularly about the Middle East. Writing in the French newspaper Le Monde, Chris Cramer, president of CNN International Networks, commented that the general belief among news chiefs that the American public is not interested in foreign news has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy: “If we don’t cover international news, there’s little chance of the audience being interested in it.”
On the other hand, it’s getting harder to keep journalists safe in foreign countries. The last remaining western reporter in southern Afghanistan, Nic Robertson of CNN, has left, joining other reporters who have been expelled from the area by the ruling Taliban faction. Robertson had been filing regular reports via a videophone hookup from Kabul, remaining on deck even as he reportedly received death threats and notices from the Taliban that it could not guarantee his safety. CNN’s Steve Harrigan is remaining in northern Afghanistan, controlled by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.