Tokyo Notes

Blushing CNN Bins Scoop

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Tokyo Notes

Blushing CNN Bins Scoop

CNN misses a chance to be the first outlet for video showing collision between a Chinese trawler and JCG boats.

It’s not like this in the movies.

When a mysterious package containing a memory card turns up at a newsroom, what happens next? Does the tech guy test it out while the news team gathers round his terminal? Do beads of sweat dribble down the forehead of a volatile, cigar-smoking editor? Does the level of nervous anticipation rocket skyward to a crescendo of rousing strings?

Not at CNN’s Tokyo office, it seems. Rather, the unsolicited item was filed with little ado in the wastepaper basket (or more likely, the non-burnable rubbish). After all, that pesky SD card could have contained a computer virus.

And with it went CNN’s scoop on the video showing the controversial collision between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands, which are held by Japan and claimed by China.

This is the latest revelation to emerge from prosecutors’ voluntary questioning of the JCG officer who says he posted the video on YouTube on November 4. If his claims are to be believed, around the end of last month he sent CNN the video, hoping that the major news network would broadcast it. But when nothing happened, he resigned himself to taking the YouTube route.

Japanese media on Thursday reported CNN as acknowledging it had disposed of an undocumented SD card it received without looking at the content on it out of fear it contained a computer virus. A legitimate concern, for sure, but not the best solution. At the time of writing, CNN’s website had yet to post any information on the binned SD card.

This latest tidbit will no doubt get tongues wagging. Why did the officer choose a foreign media organization over a domestic one? Did he think the Japanese media was more likely to keep the video under wraps? Or was it a statement by the officer against Japanese media coverage of the fallout surrounding the collision incident? And, for that matter, did anyone at CNN actually watch the content on the SD card? That too would be another story in itself.

But while answers to these questions may never transpire, one question that will eventually have to be answered is what the authorities are going to do with the leaking officer once they’ve stopped questioning him. To what extent can the officer be punished when the skipper who supposedly rammed the JCG boats in the video has been released?

One thing’s for sure, though. Blushing staff at Tokyo’s CNN office are now having a rethink about their policy regarding packages received in the mail…