CNN Senior Editor fired over tweet; are we taking Twitter too seriously?

All it took was a few hastily typed words.

In what may not seem like a blip on the technology news radar screen, a high-ranking CNN news editor was fired on Wednesday over a simple tweet. Octavia Nasr, senior editor of Mideast affairs at CNN, was quietly let go after tweeting on the passing of a Hezbollah leader. The tweet simply said, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” After her tweet caused a wide and mixed reaction across the Internet, CNN promised to look into the matter, and that it would “be dealt with accordingly.” Mediaite managed to get their hands on internal memos regarding the incident. In explaining the reasoning behind letting Nasr go, Senior Vice President of International Newsgathering Parisa Khosravi said that “we believe that credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.” Nasr had been a part of the CNN team for 20 years.

There are a whole slew of issues to deal with here, but this specific political maelstrom is one I’m going to steer clear of. The one aspect of this controversy that is as clear as a cloudless summer day is that Twitter came out on top. For the few holdouts still doubting Twitter’s dominant and influential position in the social media landscape, the event of the past few days should change your mind. When a social media outlet has the power to get a 20-year employee (a senior staffer, at that) fired over literally 140 characters of understandably well-meaning eulogy, that company has “made it.”

This is not simply an ode to the wonders of Twitter, as its somewhat dramatic rise to its current level of mass media saturation has been well documented and well known for quite some time now. I believe, however, that this incident is different. Neowin reported on Wednesday that in third party login statistics, Facebook blew away the competition. More people are using Facebook credentials to login to third party sites than any other site on the Internet, and it’s a testament to Facebook’s continued dominance in the social networking world. There was one area, however, that Facebook didn’t do as well in. In the news-related third party logins, Twitter was the dominant first place credential supplier. This is an important statistic. The masses have decided that when it comes to the distribution and reception of short spurts of raw textual information, i.e. news, Twitter was the service they joined their news accounts to. Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google, may have the edge when it comes to general information and media-rich social networking, but it comes to getting the latest information on a given topic, Twitter is the place people trust.

This is interesting, because Twitter started out as a casual way to post your simple status so that the world could see it. It was an open, global, bulletin board with the casual goings-on of its members available to public perusal. All that changed when Twitter became synonymous with grass-roots revolution during the Iranian Presidential Election and a vital communications medium during global crises like the earthquake in Haiti. It became the place where news reporters and bloggers went to first for breaking news, and where product releases and recalls were announced first. Simply put, Twitter grew up very quickly. The departure of Nasr from the staff ranks of CNN shows just how grown up the service has become. It exhibits the reality that your casual, if shortened, blurbs on Twitter can become the opinion people judge your career on. It shows that the world takes Twitter very, very, seriously. But is this the right attitude?

We’ve known for a while that employers lurk in potential employees’ Facebook pages for red flags, but your Facebook tells you a whole lot more about a person simply due to its media-rich nature. On your Facebook page, you can lay out your dreams and aspirations in a few comma-separated fields. You can chronicle your life in a series of dutifully tagged albums. All you can do with Twitter is type what’s on your mind. When I see a tweet from Octivia Nasr, I don’t see context; I just see an isolated thought.

On the other hand, Twitter doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When you tweet your goings-on, you are fully aware that there are people waiting on the other end to read what you have to say. That’s the entire point of the social platform. The conciseness forced upon us by Twitter makes us choose our words carefully, and write for effect. If that’s the case, maybe the carefully thought out blurbs of Twitter can tell us more about the minds of their sources than some pictures on a Facebook page ever will.

Either way you look at it, Twitter is a force to be reckoned with. Those 140 characters become more and more serious the longer people look to Twitter as a reliable source of news. It may be a matter of opinion whether or not we’re taking Twitter too seriously, but there’s no denying that it’s a phenomenon we can’t simply brush off as a casual fad anymore. CNN just made that very clear.  

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Facebook acquires nextstop

Next Story

Apple opening up, allows developer access to LED flash and front-facing camera

44 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

CNN is all fake. It's not a news channel. It's just broadcasting one side opinion.

I, a Lebanese christian, never saw Cnn doing anything good except offending my country.
One day if you get the chance to visit and enjoy ur time in Lebanon, you will be shocked by how much cnn is untruee:)

Long live democracy.

Just one question for CNN: Would you have fired her if she said she said she felt a deep respect for, say, a prominent general of the U.S. military? If not, what happened to your purported "lack of bias" (which is impossible to lack in the first place)?

joemagoe said,
Just one question for CNN: Would you have fired her if she said she said she felt a deep respect for, say, a prominent general of the U.S. military? If not, what happened to your purported "lack of bias" (which is impossible to lack in the first place)?

..... i was just gonna say that...!!!!!

joemagoe said,
Just one question for CNN: Would you have fired her if she said she said she felt a deep respect for, say, a prominent general of the U.S. military? If not, what happened to your purported "lack of bias" (which is impossible to lack in the first place)?

+1... couldn't have said it better!

joemagoe said,
Just one question for CNN: Would you have fired her if she said she said she felt a deep respect for, say, a prominent general of the U.S. military? If not, what happened to your purported "lack of bias" (which is impossible to lack in the first place)?

Hezbollah and the U.S. military are not equivalent. One organization advocates and practices terrorism, the other does not. Since a large fraction of CNN's audience probably doesn't support terrorism it makes sense that CNN would wish to disassociate itself from those who express a certain fondness for terrorists and/or their supporters.

WiFi Ed said,

Hezbollah and the U.S. military are not equivalent. One organization advocates and practices terrorism, the other does not. Since a large fraction of CNN's audience probably doesn't support terrorism it makes sense that CNN would wish to disassociate itself from those who express a certain fondness for terrorists and/or their supporters.


well terrorism is a tricky word.. from the point of view of Hezbollah, the US army is a terrorist as they cause terror to Hezbollah..... it's not very logical to judge every1 by your sense of right n wrong, n impose it on da world.
ppl with humanity left in them do feel sad on the death of a human being.. b it enemy or friend..

Hezbollah is every bit (if not more) of a controversial group than the Ku Klux Klan. If I heaped praise upon the Ku Klux Klan (not that I would, nor would I praise a Hezbollah leader), it would go to the news as "High-ranking official at X Company, Inc. Remembers the Greatness of a Klansman", and you bet I'd be fired in no time.

Yeah, we have respect for our enemies when they stand and fight like men, and not when they try and blow me and my buddies up with a command wire Detonated IED. Those are simply cowards
in my book. As for Ms. Nasir, I have no respect for those who are supposed to be impartial in the
way they report the news. How did her relationship with this man affect her reporting on any of the
news she did on Hezbollah?

I have seen U.S. soldiers say that have lot of respect for the enemy. Maybe we should kick them out the military too. CNN is stupid. I hope she files a lawsuit and gets a lot money from CNN.

The comments here are quiet concerning to me. It doesn't matter who it is, when people die, and you have met them personally and have interviewed them and been around them. You tend to build sympathy and offer your condolences once they pass away.

There is nothing wrong in sympathizing with the death of this leader of Hezbollah, sure its considered a terrorist organization, but in the end, Hezbollah has a political wing and a military wing and you have to realize there are wings of this organization that actually stand for rights of the people and there is a wing that kills people.

The reason why it is justified for CNN to fire Octavia Nasr is because her credibility as a Middle East correspondent is diminished due to this comment, it suggests bias even though she may not have intended it for it, she could easily work as a correspondent for another region, they should have re-assigned her but I guess it was too big a deal for their reputation to keep her around.

NathanMillson said,
I have in my bio 'Views are my own and don't represent my employer's'. I'm sure this helps safe guard some tweets. @nathanmillson

As long as you don't mention where you work - then quite frankly you're one of 100s of Nathan Millsons that are out there. Keep your personal life and work separate then you won't have a problem.

Sure it is. She didn't go to jail. That would be a freedom of speech violation. She lost her job through her private employer. That's life.

aljaradi said,
simply the so-called " freedom of speech in the western world "

Time to educate yourself. Having the right to say whatever you want simply means that no one will or can legally stop you from saying what you believe. For instance, in this greatest nation on God's green earth -- The USA -- if I stand up and say I strongly dislike the president or loathe his policies, people may look funny at me, I may be shunned, but I will not go to prison or be beheaded in public unlike what would happen to me under Sharia law if I insulted the president of Iran for instance or voiced my dissent towards his policies.

It doesn't mean that there aren't consequences for that speech though. If I stand up and say I wish ill things on the president, the secret service will pursue the matter and take appropriate action. Having the right to say anything doesn't mean I should. And in this case, this reporter voiced an opinion which her employer felt damaged their reputation as a go to news source. They can't stop her from saying it, but that doesn't mean that they can't terminate their association with her. She fully understood (or should have) the implications of her employment and thus the onus for this action was on her.

With freedom comes responsibility.

Jack Burton said,

Time to educate yourself. Having the right to say whatever you want simply means that no one will or can legally stop you from saying what you believe. For instance, in this greatest nation on God's green earth -- The USA -- if I stand up and say I strongly dislike the president or loathe his policies, people may look funny at me, I may be shunned, but I will not go to prison or be beheaded in public unlike what would happen to me under Sharia law if I insulted the president of Iran for instance or voiced my dissent towards his policies.

It doesn't mean that there aren't consequences for that speech though. If I stand up and say I wish ill things on the president, the secret service will pursue the matter and take appropriate action. Having the right to say anything doesn't mean I should. And in this case, this reporter voiced an opinion which her employer felt damaged their reputation as a go to news source. They can't stop her from saying it, but that doesn't mean that they can't terminate their association with her. She fully understood (or should have) the implications of her employment and thus the onus for this action was on her.

With freedom comes responsibility.

Reading this reminds me of Ricky Bobby talking lol You talk to education, i would infact say what you describe is western culture not just the USA.

Jack Burton said,

Time to educate yourself. Having the right to say whatever you want simply means that no one will or can legally stop you from saying what you believe. For instance, in this greatest nation on God's green earth -- The USA -- if I stand up and say I strongly dislike the president or loathe his policies, people may look funny at me, I may be shunned, but I will not go to prison or be beheaded in public unlike what would happen to me under Sharia law if I insulted the president of Iran for instance or voiced my dissent towards his policies.

It doesn't mean that there aren't consequences for that speech though. If I stand up and say I wish ill things on the president, the secret service will pursue the matter and take appropriate action. Having the right to say anything doesn't mean I should. And in this case, this reporter voiced an opinion which her employer felt damaged their reputation as a go to news source. They can't stop her from saying it, but that doesn't mean that they can't terminate their association with her. She fully understood (or should have) the implications of her employment and thus the onus for this action was on her.

With freedom comes responsibility.

what a very odd view of "freedom" you have.....

aljaradi said,
simply the so-called " freedom of speech in the western world "
Yes, there is no such thing as "freedom of speech" unless you have enough skills or money to buy it (means, have enough money to support yourself). In USA, just like in any other "civilized" country, you have pretty good chance that people will destroy your career and life if you say something to which masses (or rich person who can use masses or TV without revealing himself) doesn't agree and especially if it thinks that you have influence on others. Good thing is that they won't kill you like in some third world countries because its illegal.

3lixir said,

what a very odd view of "freedom" you have.....

How is that an odd view of freedom? It could be said that CNN was exercising their freedom of speech by firing her.

Bengal34 said,
How is that an odd view of freedom? It could be said that CNN was exercising their freedom of speech by firing her.

CNN boss was exercising power to fire people for opinion he didn't liked. CNN exchanged "Freedom of Speech" to "Political Correctness".

Wow that's just sad too hear a simple tweet could lose a job that has been apart of your life for 20 years and one tweet can make you lose it all. The internet is like a ocean it can be nurturing and motherly but it can be vast and evil.

DARKFiB3R said,
I'd say people are not taking it seriously enough.

Completely agree. That's what happens when you adorn praise on a terrorist organization.

Part of the job. This isn't a Bestbuy employee spoofing phone wars, its a very public figure showing a lot of compassion for a very controversial figure. When you work for a company that's business relies on its image, and as a public figure you represent that image, you can't stand on a public soapbox and say whatever you want. That's a restriction of your pay check, and if you can't accept that, you're in the wrong field or working for the wrong guy.