What does it take to kill a journalistic career?

With the news that Eason Jordan (late of CNN) is starting up a website dealing with information out of Iraq, I find myself asking just what is considered a capital offense in the world of journalism.

Plagiarism — nope. Former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle was fired for swiping from George Carlin, along with a long history of just making stuff up. Barnicle was immediately swooped up by the Boston Herald and the New York Daily News. He’s also a regular commentator on the Don Imus Show, MSNBC, and has his own talk show in Boston.

Fabrication — Jayson Blair was fired after years of just plain making stuff up and passing it off as “news.” Blair parlayed his status from “fraud” to “victim” by playing the mental illness card, and it’s apparently worked — he’s now auditioning as champion of those afflicted with bipolar disorder.

Now we have Eason Jordan, late of CNN. My colleague Lorie Byrd already did exceptional work on him, but I think I can sum it up in two sentences:

Eason Jordan, while with CNN, willingly covered up and concealed Saddam Hussein’s atrocities and brutalities, then later accused the United States military of targeting journalists in Iraq. In other words, he suppressed real, indisputable evidence of atrocities, then alleged atrocities without a shred of evidence — and in both cases, the end result was to impugn the United States and lend aid and comfort to our enemies.

I’m not a religous person in the least, but I do believe in the concept of redemption. But I’ve always thought that a key prerequisite for forgiveness is that the transgressor has to acknowledge the offense, make amends, and make a sincere effort towards atoning for the sins. In each of these cases, there appears to be a complete lack of anything beyond a semi-polite “my bad” and an attempt to bury the past.

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