One less view from Iraq MAR 22 2003
Kevin Sites, a CNN correspondent currently in Iraq covering the war, was "asked to suspend" writing for his weblog. It's unclear who asked him to stop. Most likely it was CNN, but could have been his wife for all we know. Many folks are disappointed because news from Iraq that is unfiltered by major news organizations is hard to come by and is a welcome addition to the regular coverage.
Some people in the discussion thread that accompanies his final post are flipping out a little bit...and unnecessarily so. If CNN did tell him to stop, it's not a case of corporate censorship or crushing the little guy (jeez, talk about paranoia). Kevin is over in Iraq on CNN's payroll and probably has a contract that doesn't allow him to report on the war for anyone else, even for himself.
Hopefully he and CNN can come to an agreement to let him keep blogging from Iraq, either on his site or on CNN.com. It would be a good thing for CNN to do to generate some goodwill among online news readers and to give an innovative, experienced correspondent a little freedom to explore new methods of war reporting.
There's an additional angle here concerning the nature of weblogs and other online writing. When looking at weblogs in a legal sense, is a weblog a personal diary or is it journalism? If Kevin's site is a personal diary, CNN might not have any right to make him stop, contract or not. But given his occupation and the simple fact that he is publishing information on an open network for anyone to read, that seems to make it journalism. As it stands now, many webloggers want the best of both worlds: the legal protection and benefits offered to journalists combined with the flexibility and freedom of keeping a personal diary. It will be interesting to see how (or if) this changes in the future.