Monday, June 9, 2014


Could CNN -- which has been nailed several times in recent years for lack of transparency or jumping the gun without all of the facts in it's reporting on certain stories -- be headed for another black eye for possibly failing to check into or to reveal details of former U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Korder's military background before giving him pretty much free rein in calling Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a deserter?

Shortly after Bergdahl's release on May 31, after five years in Taliban captivity, CNN aired an interview with Korder, who served in the same unit with him, in which the former sergeant accused Bergdahl of being at best a deserter and "at worst a traitor." Although CNN and other media outlets have since broadcast or written about other former soldiers making similar accusations, Korder remains as the center of the political maelstrom swirling around Bergdahl's release in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Now. a new undercurrent is percolating with regard to Korder and his accusations. Beginning last Friday, a number of liberal websites started reporting that Korder received a "less than honorable" discharge from the Army and suggesting that his type of discharge may be providing him an ulterior motive for lashing out at Bergdahl. Thus far, I can find no evidence that CNN or any other "mainstream" media outlet has reported anything about this.

How true this tidbit of information regarding Korder is I can't say since I haven't had time, or really even the need, to do any research into it myself since I'm retired and no longer a member of the active news media.

However, if it is true, it's something that should have been checked out before Jake Tapper's original CNN interview with Korder was aired and should have been revealed in conjunction with that interview. That would have been the proper and transparent thing to do. It seems to me, that if this information is true, viewers were entitled to know it in order to help them assess how much of what Korder said -- despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Army -- to believe.

Throughout my nearly 35 years as at various editor levels at newspapers, I always insisted that reporters look into the background of those who came forward to provide information for "GOTCHA" stories and to, at least briefly, reveal in those stories anything possibly negative in the accuser's background that readers ought to know as they weighed the veracity of the accusations.

The need to do that as a matter of credibility was one of those things drummed into my head by editors during my reporting years at the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal & Times -- sister morning and afternoon newspapers that were among the first to have a written and strictly enforced news department code of ethics.

If CNN failed to run a background check on Korder, including looking at the type of Army discharge he received, it was significant example of lackadaisical basic reporting and the viewing public has a right to expect better from a media organization that still has loads of resources and bills itself as the nation's premiere all-news network.

If a background check was run by CNN and Korder was honorably discharged, that fact -- to insure fairness to Korder, who they should have known would come under attack from Bergdahl defenders -- should have been reported somewhere in connection with the original Tapper interview.

If a background check was run and it was learned that Korder received a "less than honorable" discharge and that information was not revealed as part of the Tapper interview, CNN richly deserves any black eye that might develop as a result of its failure to do so.

If you want to know more about what constitutes a "less than honorable" discharge, there is an easy to understand explanation of it here:


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