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Egypt TV: Courage, commitment in face of danger

So far this week, TV journalism is doing itself proud on a landmark story in Egypt. And I think we ought to salute some of the folks who are putting their bodies and lives on the line to try and bring us the story against the wishes of the thug and goon forces of repression. (Check out this video of CNN's Anderson Cooper telecasting from an unknown location in Cairo Thursday night.)

Last Sunday, I wrote about Piers Morgan's shaky first night of live TV, and even though I felt I had to write about him and his failings after all the PR hype that preceded him, I went out of my way to contextualize the piece by referring back to a video I included of Morgan trying to interview CNN correspondents Nic Robertson and Ben Wedemen who were on the ground in Egypt. You can read the full piece here, but here's the context I tried to offer as a prism through which to view Egypt coverage in the coming week.

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Cable and network TV reporters, as well as big-name anchors like CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Christiane Amanpour, have certainly shown courage and commitment in bringing us this story this week. And they have demonstrated another truth that the folks in the corner offices in the towers in New York tend to forget: that good journalism still can be good business.

The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Thursday night that says in part:

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Virtually, every U.S. network and cable channel has seen its personnel threatened, bloodied, bruised and worse. From CNN's Anderson Cooper being pushed and punched, to correspondent Greg Palkot and videographer Olaf Wiig, of Fox News, being beaten and hospitalized, there can be no doubt that TV news is under assault in the bloody streets of Cairo.

And yet, like their counterparts at Al Jazeera, the first targets of the Mubarak regime, American journalists have found ways to consistently send back words and images to tell the story of this tumultuous time in Egypt.

Given the magnitude of that story, some might think it crass to talk about ratings. But TV news is always to some extent about ratings. The Nielsen monster never takes a day off.

And it is important, I think, to remind the folks running the networks and cable channels that you don't have to pimp out your news organization with ex-governors who were forced to resign and interview shows stacked with shilling celebrities and reality-TV low lifes to succeed. Yes, the media landscape is undergoing its own kind of revolutionary change, and you have to change with it. But that doesn't mean ignoring journalistic integrity and credibility when those are among the core ingredients of that brand that made your call letters a worldwide symbol for news.

Anderson Cooper and the CNN correspondents, producers and technical folks have with their sound journalism and hard work lifted that foundering cable channel back into second place in prime time ahead of MSNBC.

And while MSNBC has access to the fine work of NBC anchorman Brian Williams and correspondent Richard Engel, it primarily features a trio of prime time hosts in Lawrence O'Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz who don't have a journalistic bone in any of their bodies.

Why in the world would anyone watch shows hosted by such journalistic emptyweights when such important news is happening?

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