Whether things happen randomly or for cosmic reasons, the fallout from the arrest, detainment and conviction in North Korea of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee has been wide-ranging and, in some cases, surprising. Although refugee experts have expressed concern that the camera footage seized from the @Current team may have exposed and endangered interviewees, chances are those featured are already known to North Korean intelligence and-or participated in a way that did not divulge details beyond those inherent to their risky flight.
Ling and Lee’s fate has complicated @BarackObama and Secretary Clinton’s foreign policy efforts, tarnished for some the image of @Current co-founder @AlGore and muddied the personal reputation of veteran producer and cameraman Mitch Koss. But in the end, when all is said and done, the real question will be whether all this has a permanent, negative effect on the fortunes of Current TV.
Early on, the State Department made it clear that it had not ordered @Current to maintain a policy of public silence (or merciless website monitoring). Since then, speculation has revolved around the idea that, fearful of abetting some sort of legal liability that could threaten a re-launch of their recently scuttled IPO, the network decided to opt for the safer, less popular PR route.
While a recent press release touting the arrival of new @Current CEO Mark Rosenthal boasted that the website Current.com is accessed by seven million monthly unique visitors, the measurement service Quantcast places the figure at 2.6 million. Barring a top-notch, behind-the scenes documentary rationalization of @Current‘s Ling–Lee policies, the San Francisco-headquartered network may well remember this very unfortunate contretemps as a lost opportunity to stem the tide of November 2008 layoffs, diminishing ad revenues and a user-generation model that was locked down at a time when it was needed most.