After two decades covering Mideast affairs for CNN, Senior Editor Octavia Nasr saw her career go poof with a tweet mourning the passing of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadlallah, a Muslim cleric who died on Sunday after a lifetime spent endorsing suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and inspiring Hezbollah. But Fadlallah was also relatively progressive in some ways, issuing fatwas against "honor" killings and female circumcision. That's what Nasr liked about the guy, but the 140 character Twitter format is no friend to nuance: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot."
The predictable uproar ensued, fueled by right-wing pundits who've become expert at convincing media outlets like CNN that its coverage is so biased against Israel that they ought to compensate by tacking right. (It's not a new game.) And so CNN tacked; yesterday the network fired Nasr, explaining in a memo that "at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
On Tuesday, Nasr had futilely tried to put out the fire, apologizing for her tweet and explaining, "It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all. Here's what I should have conveyed more fully: I 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."
David Carr, who reports for the Times and is a huge Twitter cheerleader, responded to the news thus: "as a journo who tweets, gotta say this trend toward career-ending posts is a might disturbing." The Atlantic Wire has a good roundup of all the reactions to Nasr's dismissal, which Brian Whitaker at The Guardian blames partially on CNN, because, "like most news organisations (including the Guardian), [CNN] has been encouraging its journalists to cross over into social media and establish a more personal and informal relationship with their viewers and readers."