< The Long Slog

Transcript

Friday, December 22, 2006

BROOKE GLADSTONE:
On Wednesday CNN aired video of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appearing anxious and rambling. The source of the footage --iraqslogger.com. Launched on Monday, IraqSlogger bills itself as a one-stop shop for news about the war. It links to a vast array of news and opinion blogs and video, and offers critiques of the stories too.

But it aims to be not just a clearinghouse, but also an original source for news. And it has hired dozens of Iraqis to report from the streets. Former CNN news chief Eason Jordan is co-founder of IraqSlogger, and he says it will fill an information gap.

EASON JORDAN:
Well, I think, first of all, we're not getting a view at all from the Iraqi side. And I'll give you one example. We haven't actually posted a story about this yet. We got back poll results from 12 police officers in Baghdad, and we asked them who was their boss. And they all 12 responded their boss was a--their militia, even though they're paid by the government. And it's not a scientific survey, but it's as extremely telling.

And last week the U.S. military, for the first time in 20 years, published a counter-insurgency manual. Now, the report I thought, strangely, was published on the Internet, in full, 282 pages. Within 24 hours jihadist websites were dissecting and critiquing the report because they say they can learn from it and use it against their enemy, meaning the United States.

I think that is an absolutely fascinating story, and you will not find that story anywhere in the western press.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
So how many reporters have you hired who are Iraqis in Iraq? How did you find them? How do you vet them, how do you edit them?
EASON JORDAN:
Well, we have roughly 50 correspondents in Iraq, all Iraqi. They're all over the country, not just in Baghdad. I know them; my colleagues here in the United States know them. We have essentially established a network with the people who feed us information on a daily basis. They're not all journalists, necessarily. In some cases they're just average people who give us little nuggets of information that we can put out there in interesting ways.

And one of them--for example, we have a section of the site that's dedicated to humor. And Iraqis have extremely morbid jokes, and understandably, given the time that we're in, it's hard to have a joke that's not morbid. Even knowing the morbid jokes of the Iraqi people is actually quite interesting.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
You know, we couldn't help notice that you offered to send conservative pundit and blogger Michelle Malkin on a trip to Baghdad, and she accepted. Are you trying to open the eyes of pundits by showing them what it's really like? What's this about?
EASON JORDAN:
Well, I feel strongly that if we can make some voices out there more enlightened, and have them come to grips with the ground truth, which can be jarring and is very dangerous, then that would be a good thing. And I'm pleased that she accepted the invitation and hopefully will be able to make that trip.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
What do you intend to show her?
EASON JORDAN:
She and I both want to get to the bottom of an interesting story where there are a lot of unanswered questions about a report by the A.P. of an attack by one sect on another. According to the A.P., six people were burned alive. And the report was attributed initially to an Iraqi police captain by the name of Jamil Hussein.

Well, soon after the report came out, the Iraqi government and the U.S. military both said the report was false. Jamil Hussein, they said, does not exist. And no one's been able to find him. Michelle's goal and mine would be to go and find him and put the questions to him directly.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Have you and Michelle Malkin been in conflict over this story?
EASON JORDAN:
Michelle's a longtime critic of mine. I would call her "a co-president of the Eason Haters' Club." And when I launched my site, she essentially threw down the gauntlet and said, you know, Eason Jordan cannot be taken seriously, he has a history; we need to call him out. And, by the way, if he's serious about tracking down news in Iraq, he will find Jamil Hussein. It was a challenge.

So I responded saying basically, not only will we try to find him, and by the way, we already are looking for him, I would be happy to pay for you to make the trip over there, and I will go with you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Your website is called IraqSlogger, so named because of Rumsfeld's remark about the long, hard slog. Do you anticipate then that your website will have a raison d'etre for three years, five years, twenty years?
EASON JORDAN:
Well, I'd love to shut it down tomorrow and say the slog is over. But, obviously, we're in an era where the slog in Iraq is going to continue for many years. And if we can give people that one-stop shop, give them smart information, exclusive information, interesting analysis and critiques of other news coverage, I think we will be doing a real service for people in this country and around the world.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Eason, thank you very much.
EASON JORDAN:
Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Eason Jordan is the former chief news executive for CNN and now directs the website iraqslogger.com.
BOB GARFIELD:
Coming up, a look back at the coverage of the civil rights movement, and a look ahead at the repulsive power of the "N word."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
This is On the Media, from NPR.