20 Years Gone in Less Than 140 Characters: CNN Editor Octavia Nasr Fired Over Controversial Tweet

These days, you never know what kind of effect the things you say on the internet might have on others around you.

Or yourself, for that matter.

Take CNN Editor Octavia Nasr for example. On Wednesday , Ms. Nasr, who has been the chief Middle East correspondent at CNN for the last 20 years, was fired from her job after making this comment on her Twitter page on the 4th of July : “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot..”

Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah is often considered by many to be affiliated with terrorism. Over the next few days that followed her controversial and uncalculated tweet, outrage ensued across the internet, from Twitter to a string of political blogs, all heavily criticizing the now former CNN Editor for her careless 140-character remark.

The overwhelming reaction led her to post this blog entry on CNN.com two days later. In it, she apologizes (“It’s something I deeply regret”) and explains that she “used the words ‘respect’ and ‘sad’ because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of ‘honor killing.’ He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.” A few paragraphs later, she added this disclaimer : “This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it.”

Her apology post might have sufficed with regards to the general public, but not for CNN.

On Tuesday, a CNN official said that Octavia Nasr had made an “error of judgment” that “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.” Following that, Ms. Parisa Khosravi, the senior vice president of international newsgathering for CNN Worldwide, wrote in an internal memo on Wednesday that after speaking with Nasr that particular morning, “we have decided that she will be leaving the company” because “at this point, we believe that her(Nasr’s) credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.” {New York Times}

This entire incident here is a reminder that what you say, especially on the internet, can always come back to haunt you. Not just the journalist who is expected to be objective and unbiased, but also to the average person at home. These days, with the internet being such a universal commodity and also so easily accessible for everyone, caution should always be exercised with regards to posting information online, be it comments or stories of any kind.

Reporting in the age of social media is even more of a tight rope when you consider the pressure to interact with viewers, and share enough background to seem personable while maintaining an air of being unbiased. It’s certainly not coincidental that nearly every CNN program and personality participates on Twitter and Facebook. Michael Arrington makes the case for allowing journalists to share more opinions for more honest reporting, and we have to agree. {TechCrunch}

Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. And when you are a journalist as prolific as Octavia Nasr, even brief statements take on a whole new meaning. A 20 year career ruined by a 4 year old, 140-character medium? That’s just cruel.

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