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Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

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Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

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Group Blogs

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Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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November 23, 2004

Dan Rather: Park Avenue Ordinary

"Rather's sins were the sins of a celebrity journalist, a star, also known as a bigfoot, to whom no one in CBS could tell the truth until it was too late, and the network had been put on the wrong side of the story by Bigfoot's recklessness (plus his ignorance of the Web.)"

Bringing devastating memos into a campaign’s final sprint is like bringing pistols on stage. You better know what you are doing at that point in the script. PressThink, Sep. 18th, 2004

Dan Rather will be stepping down from the anchor’s job in March 2005 to concentrate full time on being a correspondent again. This is action anticipating a critical report from Richard Thornburgh and Lou Boccardi, the two-person truth commission investigating how apparently phony documents were relied on by Rather and his 60 Minutes team in a story about Bush’s National Guard service. (See the New York Times account. Here’s the CBS announcement. )

I have been interviewed today about it, so I might as well explain what I think. The following points seem key to me:

  • For Rather, recovering his reputation as a reporter is now the most important thing to him— more important than remaining the anchor of CBS Evening News after 24 years in that job. That’s a measure of how much damage the Texas Air National Guard story did to him.
  • This news was not unexpected. Howard Kurtz reported back on Sep. 16: “Some friends of Rather, whose contract runs until the end of 2006, are discussing whether he might be forced to make an early exit from CBS.
  • If Rather had chosen to remain as anchor, I would have been surprised. If CBS permitted that, I would have been very surprised. It’s hard to say exactly why hanging onto the anchor’s chair was not viable, but it was not viable. In that sense he didn’t have a political future as the anchor of CBS Evening News.
  • What is an anchor? It keeps the ship from drifting. From what I have been told by people who work there, everything is adrift at CBS News until the report comes in, which should be soon. It’s very difficult to move forward when you don’t know who will be leading the news division. Today’s announcement provides some resolution, but it is not the resolution of the Faked Memos disaster. That begins when the report comes in.
  • I found it sad that the official announcement, as well as the news story at, included no mention, at all, of the precipitating event, a 60 Minutes broadcast Sep. 8th that relied on documents shown to be suspect by outside critics, while Rather and CBS stonewalled, refusing to see that their reporting had been called into question. No mention of the elephant in the room, even though no competent news story would avoid it. Thus, the AP lead: “Dan Rather, whose nearly 24-year tenure as anchor of the ‘CBS Evening News’ was clouded by a recent questionable report on President Bush’s National Guard service, said Tuesday he will step down in March.”
  • Avoiding candid mention of a devastating event may be the way a PR pro does it, but a first class news organization has to consider other, more truthful options. Especially in a situation like this, where a reflexive, defensive, and PR-soaked mentality had earlier hurt Rather and CBS. But at least there’s a consistency. During the crisis over the suspect memos the announcements from CBS News were routinely maladroit and uninformative.
  • The view from the Right is apty summarized by the lead over at NewsMax: “Dan Rather, whose latest scandal has depressed the ratings of his network’s entire ‘news’ division, said today he would leave as anchorman of CBS Evening News in March.” Conservatives, I think, are bound to view the announcement in historic terms, the successful culimination of a critique that goes back to the 1960s, before anyone knew of Dan Rather. Jonah Goldberg: “Shed no tears, make no apologies. He deserved to lose his job for Memogate — and no matter what they say, he did. This is just wonderful, wonderful news.”
  • Back in September I wrote that Rather’s self-image is not as an anchor or “public face” of the news division; it’s “the hustling correspondent who outworks everyone else,” which is essentially a romantic view of himself. “The reporter in him authenticates the anchorman,” I wrote. From today’s announcement: I have always been and remain a ‘hard news’ investigative reporter at heart. I now look forward to pouring my heart into that kind of reporting full-time.
  • Notice, then, that Rather’s sins were the sins of a celebrity journalist, a star, also known as a bigfoot, to whom no one in CBS could tell the truth until it was too late, and the network had been put on the wrong side of the story by Bigfoot’s recklessness (plus his ignorance of the Web.) We must remember that Dan Rather—the hustling hard news reporter at heart—is a man who himself has a spokesperson, Kim Akhtar. She speaks on his behalf to the press. That’s how ordinary he is as a figure in the ranks. He’s Park Avenue Ordinary. But as a figure to himself, he is still that humble guy making the extra phone call. Most people who know of this contradiction seem to admire it. I don’t.
  • This, I believe, is one reason he navigated the crisis over The Memos so poorly. In Rather’s mind, celebrity had never changed him, political notoriety could not touch the “hard news” core. But this was disproven during September’s events. Experienced reporters knew that Rather’s story was in trouble within 24 hours. (Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post said: “I had serious suspicions about the authenticity of the documents on the morning after they were aired.”) They got it; he didn’t. The hard news guy in Rather had been Bigfooted by face-of-the-network Dan, cultural figure Dan, political lightening rod Dan. Now to pay for this sin he is going back to (humbled) reporter. He wants to recover his reputation that way. But a better way, I think, would be to more fully understand what happened in September, free of his own romanticism. Maybe the truth commission will help him.
  • Whose job was it to save the network from Bigfoot, who had endangered all the accumulated trust in CBS News, and confirmed the accumulated mis-trust? Not Bigfoot’s. It could only have been the President of CBS News, Andrew Heyward. That’s why I see no chance of him surviving.
  • All eyes turn to Richard Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi as they wind up their investigation.

    After Matter: Notes, Reactions and Links..

Broadcasting & Cable Magazine: Dan Rather: A Storied Life.
After 24 years as anchor, he reflects on his critics, his career and the future. (Nov. 29)

I added this over at Tom Watson’s site, where there is a friendly argument going on between Jeff Jarvis and Tom over Rather’s significance and the role of bloggers in his downfall:

First, let me say that I am not a “Joe Citizen” type. I live in Manhattan. I have lunch with Jeff Jarvis from time to time. I get calls from the bookers at CNN and the Newshour (though when I tell them what I think, I can hear their enthusiasm drain away.)

I am basically with Jeff about Rather; but I admit to some ambivalence about it. Where I think Tom has hold of something important is that Rather never fit the TV mold. He was “hot” where the prevailing style was cool. He took chances where the prevailing ethic was risk adverse. He was willing to be weird; is Brian Williams willing to be weird?

Part of the reason he generated such intense dislike is this refusal to become the “smooth” TV type we so expect these days. Not only is there value in that; there’s something courageous about it. The pressure to be predictable is huge in network television; in the anchor’s chair even more so. Rather remained an edgy figure, a creature of emotion, an individual.

Some of his other achievements I question. I don’t see it as some journalistic advance that he was the first to take his broadcast to big events and anchor the newscast on location. It was an enlargement of the anchorman’s celebrity, a stunt that had nothing to do with reportage and everything to do with ego, Bigfoot-ism and the ideology of hype. He wanted to do both: anchor the broadcast and be the star reporter on location. If the show remained in New York he would have to choose.

In talking with the New York Observer Rather made much of his interview with Saddam Hussein before the 2003 war. “The Saddam interviews—I know not everybody thought they were good or worth doing or what have you,” he said, “but by any objective standards, any journalist worthy of the name would’ve killed to have those interviews.”

I think this quote gets to the heart of my problem with Rather. He had no idea why he was interviewing Saddam, or what he hoped to accomplish. His reference point for it was not Saddam within history, but Dan Rather within journalism. (For my earlier analysis of Rather’s 2003 Saddam interview, see this essay and scroll down to “Interview at the Axis of Evil.”)

New PressThink! Reaching for Moral Values in the Post Election Debris, by guest writer Weldon Berger. Check into it.

Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice has a good round up of early press coverage and blog reactions. “CBS let nature take its course,” he writes.

Andrew Sullivan: “How can you rehire a man for Sixty Minutes when you haven’t even published your own investigation into the journalistic meltdown that he presided over? Shouldn’t you wait until you know what actually happened before you declare that someone will stay on full-time?”

Jeff Jarvis has two must read posts: on the death of the anchorman (“the end of one-way news “) and what ought to replace it (“How to explode TV news in four easy steps.”)

New York Times account: “Until recently, Mr. Rather had told colleagues that he hoped to remain behind the CBS anchor desk until March 2006 and the 25th anniversary of the day he succeeded Walter Cronkite. But for Mr. Rather, that calculus was apparently complicated by the strain and scrutiny of the investigation.”

Official press release:

“I have decided to leave the CBS EVENING NEWS on March 9, 2005,” said Rather. “I have been lucky and blessed over these years to have what is, to me, the best job in the world and to have it at CBS News. Along the way, I’ve had the honor of working with some of the most talented, dedicated professionals in the world, and I’m appreciative of the opportunity to continue doing so in the years ahead.

“I have always said that I’d know when the time was right to step away from the anchor chair. This past summer, CBS and I began to discuss this matter in earnest — and we decided that the close of the election cycle would be an appropriate time. I have always been and remain a ‘hard news’ investigative reporter at heart. I now look forward to pouring my heart into that kind of reporting full-time.”

Advisory to Users: A number of people told me they print out PressThink and read it on paper. I added a special “print” feature. Just click on LINK or on this title in the RECENT ENTRIES column. The “print” button will appear in the upper right, near the headline. Check for it.

PressThink’s earlier coverage of Dan Rather:

Weekend Notes with Forgery Swrling in the Air. (Sep. 11)

Stark Message for the Legacy Media. (Sep. 14)

Rather’s Satisfaction: Mystifying Troubles at CBS. (Sep. 18)

Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet and Sending Alerts? (Sep. 20)

Does CBS News Have a Political Future in This State? (Sep. 24)

Posted by Jay Rosen at November 23, 2004 4:13 PM   Print


Can't we just get Walter back? I've viewed Rather's misfortune as divine retribution for what Rather and CBS did to Walter C. all those years ago, in tossing him out for Mr. "Courage".
Anytime I've heard him on NPR discussing events he covered, my hope to have him back on the air returns.

Posted by: Ed Newman at November 23, 2004 4:29 PM | Permalink

In Hollywood, the arc is simple: Rather's all-consuming passion in the trenches of post-modern journalism is to unearth the well-protected source of the memos, thereby proving to the world he was the Right Stuff all along. After much macho, money, and sex interest, a la Sweet Smell of Success, Rather, with full camera and make-up crew, makes his way through to the heart of darkness, finding The Source, who - much to the chagrin of the upstaged Woodward - turns out to be Deep Throat.

More to the point, as Jay underscores, Rather has done all of us a great disservice. His hubris has provided the John Moores and paladins of this world with more ammunition than they have any need to have, and caused the burial of a story (Niger yellowcake) that deserved far more attention than the TANG story.

We will not miss him, except that Harry Shearer will need yet another voice for Le Show.

Posted by: fatbear at November 23, 2004 5:03 PM | Permalink

Sure, Rather screwed up. Lots of people screw up. But I have never understood what he did that has made him so hated by so many people who have achieved so much less.

Posted by: David Crisp at November 23, 2004 5:50 PM | Permalink

fatbear, you are right. We didn't need Rathergate as ammunition. At some point, you have so much that more is just boring. This election season provided so many examples, such as this.

Frankly, I find the response to Rathergate a bit odd. We have this guy who uses poorly sourced information - BIG SIN. But 60 Minutes cranks out propaganda hit pieces every weekend. Not a problem.

The MSM went far out of its way to support Kerry this year, even failing to insist on the revelation of his military records, which would have revealed that he got a less than honorable discharge! I guess its okay for everyone to miss a very important fact. But Dan Rather goes to the woodshed.

I don't really care what happens to Rather. He will no doubt be replaced by another skilled partisan. And I won't watch that person either, since CBS long ago chose opinion making over information dissemination.

As long as the media folks think that Rather's mistake is the big journalism story. But that's ignoring the elephant in the room while killing the mouse.

I realize that the bias narrative is not very popular here, but if MSM bias isn't a problem, then media has no problems. Everyone can sit back fat and happy and watch the readership/listenership dribble away.

Posted by: John Moore at November 23, 2004 6:48 PM | Permalink

Bravo Jay for the details about Rather's spokesperson, and the contradiction of being a hustling reporter while attending the finest Park Avenue soirees. He thought he was special, even as he worked to be just shoe-leather reporter. He thought he understood regular people, although he had no contact with them.

There can be, among highly paid, celebrity newspeople, a hubris that takes them into the realm of the elite, and away from regular people. The web is going to change this because regular people can talk back. And we want more than phony memos and one-way pronouncements.

Posted by: JennyD at November 23, 2004 6:51 PM | Permalink

JennyD: No, ordinary people cannot talk back. Large right-wing rant-machines can talk back. There is a difference, and don't confuse the two.

Jay, when the report does come out, can I pre-emptively plead for an attempt to get beyond the, err, master narrative here? That is, I expect a torrent then of: "Blah blah blah *THE Internet*! Blah blah *B*L*O*G*S*!! It's a new era!!!". etc. etc. You in particular are very well-situated to write an insightful article on the deep pressthinking processes within CBS.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 23, 2004 8:05 PM | Permalink

Could you give me examples of "large right-wing rant machines?"

Posted by: John Moore at November 23, 2004 10:15 PM | Permalink

The obvious answer is "Fox News", but the specific answer in this case would be "Cybercast News Service". Another good answer, general and specific, would be "Drudge Report".

Let us not forget, by the way, how well-connected to the right-wing attack-machine was one of the first promotors of the story, "Buckhead" (Harry MacDougald). Some people have drawn unjustified inferences from that. But it is a fact that he is a professional right-wing attack-lawyer, not "ordinary people" by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 23, 2004 11:11 PM | Permalink

Here's what I posted about this topic a couple of hours ago at an entry at " No Left Turns":

But who will replace him?

In many cases such as this, especially those involving liberals or neoconservatives, I would be quite glad to see a media figure go. However, when I was watching the news growing up, Dan Rather was the one who has always been on... He’s been there for all these years. And I am someone who typically does not like change.

(Perhaps this is how some people may have felt about Walter Cronkite... even if they didn’t agree with him. But I don’t know - that was before my time.)

Didn’t Connie Chung used to be a co-anchor for that show or something? (I remember what happened with her and Kathleen Gingrich... Some time after that, she was canned.) Have they decided yet who will replace Rather as the anchor for the CBS Evening News?

Posted by: Aakash at November 24, 2004 1:52 AM | Permalink

Seth, I beg to differ. Regular people can and do talk back. For years, they wrote letters to the editor, congressmen, and were basically ignored. But now it's much easier to "publish" ideas, gather support and evidence, and have an impact. This is in its infancy in many ways, but it looks like a time in our history when pamphleteers were as powerful as the local newspaper.

Also, I can think of a few left-wing rant machines that talk-back. How about Move On? The problem is that people didn't agree with them. Actually biggest left-wing rant machine is probably Michael Moore.

Posted by: JennyD at November 24, 2004 7:29 AM | Permalink

Jenny, it's a mathematical fact that we all can't have a million readers. The distribution of readership is *highly* exponential. IN TERMS OF POLITICS, there are a very, very few, people who have a meaningful audience, and everyone else is just chatting to friends. If one of the editors does not select your letter for publication, I mean, one of the A-listers doesn't select your post for linking, then the ordinary person might just as well be blowing-off to bar buddies for all the effect it has. Again, this is just mathematics. The power law curve can't be wished away.

With regard to Dan Rather and CBS, there is a pack of right-wing attack-dogs which has hated them for *decades*. When they (Dan Rather and CBS) goofed-up - and they did, no way around that - the pack pounced with all their fury. It's not citizens vs. Mainstream Media. It's Right-Wing Partisan Media vs. Mainstream Media.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 24, 2004 10:55 AM | Permalink

David Crisp: But I have never understood what he did that has made him so hated

Not hated. Disappointed. He undermined journalism three different ways.

  • He used poorly sourced information.
  • He dismissed feedback that is essential to journalism.
  • He then abused the bloggers whose insight could have helped him in the future.
60 Minutes cranks out propaganda hit pieces every weekend. A real problem: A video supermarket tabloid.

Seth: Large right-wing rant-machines can talk back. There is a difference, and don't confuse the two.

Oh, Seth. Sigh. Yawn. You go, JennyD. We need to set up a website so we only need respond with


Somewhere there is an essay waiting to be written about "The Culture of a Mistakeless Society." Dan Rather, like George Bush, couldn't afford to be seen making a mistake. The difference seems to be that Rather didn't think he made one, and Bush knows he has but won't give the meat to a hungry White House press corps.

Bush understood that the cost of conceding mistakes outweighed the cost of keeping quiet. But what did it matter to him, so long as he, himself, learned from them. [Jay, I'm sure Ron Suskind would disagree. ;-) ]

400 years ago Montaigne encouraged "becoming" -- learning from experience and changing views. Many teachers today don't model that behavior for their students.

Posted by: sbw at November 24, 2004 11:04 AM | Permalink

Gee, I hate to get too deep into this Seth, but I have pre-Thanksgiving commenting obssession. So...

There's a big difference between blogging on the web and working in media. I've done both. True, it's easier to get attention if you get linked by the A-list bloggers. But I'm not linked, and I can have a say here, and lots of people might read it. I can come back everyday.

Meanwhile, I can have my own blog, and post interesting, probing and maybe important writings. I can email them to other bloggers. I can email them the press if I want. The point is I have a lot of opportunities to enter the discussion and be heard.

When I was a reporter, the newspapers were pretty clear that we--the editorial staff--had complete control over content. We partitioned a tiny space for corrections (that we controlled, but did respond to the public) and another tiny space for letters. That was our entire dialogue with our readers. Beyond calling the staff on the phone, they had no other methods to contact with us or be heard.

An aside that might explain my inclination to comment (perhaps over-comment) at this time: The perfect anecdote to explain why the media is going down the tubes is the "Thanksgiving Travel-Crush" story. Every year, on this very day, nearly every media outfit in the US runs the exact same story as its lead. Travel at Thanksgiving. It went on every one of the 15 years I was in media. Last year the story was "Not Enough Travel at Thanksgiving." This year it's "Too Much Travel at Thanksgiving."

Now, why does every single media person think that citizen-consumers need to be told the same exact story every year on the same day? I mean, they think we're stupid. I know they do, because I used to be one of them.

Posted by: JennyD at November 24, 2004 2:27 PM | Permalink

1. I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that the documents were forged.

2. Even if they were forged it doesn't mean that real versions with the same content exist (or did at one time). Why did W and Jim Bath get booted at the same time? Were they running drugs with an TANG plane? What happened to the plane Bush flew?

3. Where did the forged documents come from? Same shop as the Niger uranium documents, maybe?

4. It does not change the fact that W was technically a deserter.

5. I hope Rather comes back bigger and meaner as a reporter. He used to be among the best.

Posted by: John Gillnitz at November 24, 2004 2:46 PM | Permalink

John Gillnitz: Were they running drugs with an TANG plane?

As my son's friend once cried in anguish at the pointless bickering going on in the car, "What does it matter?!"

You have GOT to read Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum".

Too many people with too much time on their hands.

Posted by: sbw at November 24, 2004 2:51 PM | Permalink

Jenny, just to give a quick reply: There are indeed changes which are important to working members of the media. One of the things I get out of Jay's writing, and some of the comments, is a deeper understanding of how the changes play out. in terms of the day-to-day functioning, not the Big Story Pontificating.

One thing in particular I've seen discussed is how *good* reporters have an opportunity to benefit from feedback.

But as an outsider, much of this seems very minor to my experience. The reporter who doesn't want feedback, the agenda-driven hack who doesn't care - he or she has just as much power as ever. An ordinary person who gets a hatchet-jobbed by a reporter can't fight back with a blog, because practically nobody will read that blog in comparison to the reach of the original article. The blog-blather then turns into cruelty against those powerless against the media.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 24, 2004 3:20 PM | Permalink

John Gillnitz,

Bush's "desertion" was cover for secret missions to Roswell where he transported dead aoliens.

As someone who was in military aviation at the time, I hate it when people who are utterly clueless about the subject (which includes almost all reporters) pontificates with utter blather like "technically he was a deserter."

So I'll once again throw out a fact that will tick off every Bush hater, except perhaps for statisticians: Bush was exposed to more risk to his life than John Kerry, and had one of his many armed alert missions turned out to be for real, he would have been in extreme danger.

And, I'll leave you with a challenge: explain why Bush's National Guard record was exposed to such intense media scrutiny this year, compared to 2000.

And one more: why did only one MSM outlet report that Kerry received a less than honorable discharge from the military, which kept him out of Harvard Law School.

And now back to Rathergate and Thanksgiving.

Posted by: John Moore at November 24, 2004 4:55 PM | Permalink

"that relied on documents shown to be suspect by outside critics"

Suspect? Until people grasp the truth, nothing will change.

Posted by: Mike at November 24, 2004 6:44 PM | Permalink

Sigh ... I don't want to get into a left-right flame-war, but John Moore,

1) I assume you're referring to the Thomas Lipscom / New York Sun article on Kerry's discharge, which was basically spinning out a fantasy - that article was even debunked by some right-wingers.

2) The "greater risk of death" was an apples-to-oranges comparison designed to just create a talking-point.

I don't doubt there's something politically embarrassing in Kerry's military records. Frankly, I give him a pass on it, after seeing what the smear-machine has done.

So, why don't Dan Rather and CBS read opposition blogs? Because such blogs are full of useless wingnut rantings! The one time or so they're actually correct can't be determined beforehand, because it's drowned in the worst demagogic wolf-crying imaginable.

Besides the partisan point, this has some pretty bad implications for blogs overall as a supposed means of improving the media.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 24, 2004 8:13 PM | Permalink

Let's not forget to keep these recent events in their greater and proper perspective of a pervasive media liberal-bias.

Bernard Goldberg, in his revealing book, "Media Bias" states clearly that one the biggest problems that his former boss [DR] has, as do many of the media magnates, is that there is no recognition of their left-leaning bias; that these inviduals actually believe their left-leaning tendancies are centric.

I remember vividly watching a C-SPAN broadcast of Jennings, Rather, Brokaw, and others speaking at Harvard the week leading up to the DNC.

During the question and answer session, the panel fielded a question posed by a member of the audience about the "myth" of liberal-bias in the media.

Here these guys say - with a straight face - that there is essentially no such thing as liberal bias and have at times suggested that the media is actually conservative leaning.

And now I am thinking...OK...We are holding this event at a liberal college, in a liberal town, in a liberal NE state dispelling this "myth" between liberals.

I wondered, how many people in the audience were actually planning on voting for Bush?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math.

I can hear them all assuring each other - Yeah, the world is flat. Yeah, the world is flat...

Posted by: Robert at November 24, 2004 9:19 PM | Permalink

I lost respect for Rather when I read in Judy Muller's book. Muller writes that when she was working at CBS News, she called Rather for a comment on a court case he was involved in. Muller says that Rather exploded, he was pissed that she had the temerity to call Him!
Jay your analysis is spot on. Not unlike the NBA where we pay millions of dollars (former?) thugs to play a children's game, we so pay the anchors of the old news network.
I certainly enjoyed my six figure salary as a reporter in Los Angeles. But at least I was being paid to work as a reporter, not an attractive reader.

Posted by: Rod Bernsen at November 24, 2004 10:19 PM | Permalink


First, I wanted to thank you for bringing in the power law. I have noticed its effect becoming stronger in the blog world.

Regarding the discharge, would you do me a favor and just give me a link to a right winger debunking it? Likewise, where did the relative risk come from.

Those of us who are Vietnam veterans may look at Kerry in different ways than you do. We considered his actions while a Naval officer to be significant, both in Vietnam and when he got back. The good news is that he is history as a presidential candidate. The bad news is that the MSM seems to not have learned much.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 25, 2004 5:20 PM | Permalink

If it's the Castenada I think you are referring to, read him 35 years ago. Pretty good con man in my opinion.

Seth said the right wing debunked a particular assertion. I just asked him for a reference.

I know where the story came from. But I have seen no debunking. The story is quite plausible. The debunking needs to offer an alternative explanation for the events.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 25, 2004 9:55 PM | Permalink

Here's a good one:

"Update (Sat Oct. 30 @ 12:50am): This rumor hasn't yet panned out, as acknowledged by its original source, and may or may not ever pan out"

I believe the relative risk error was confusing risk flying *in combat* (high) with *training* (very low). I mean, sanity check, it kind of beggars belief that the "Champaign unit" of the Texas Guard is riskier than being shot at all the time in Vietnam.

So, to bring it back on-topic, sometimes the accusation of Mainstream Media not doing a story because of liberal bias should pan out in *their favor*. That is, statistically, with a constant barrage of planted and fictional stories, some have to have been correctly ignored.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at November 26, 2004 2:29 AM | Permalink

Actually, I came up with that "talking point" myself. The person doing the "debunking" is clueless - he says the risk in training is "very low."

Having lost my best friend to that very low risk activity (flying a New Mexico ANG jet when Bush was flying), and having lost 13 of my squadron mates to a training accident (I could have been on that plane), and having looked up the annual fatality rate of those flying "the widowmaker," the numbers are a lot higher than a naive person might think. A guard pilot flying the F-102 had a 1%/year excess chance of being killed (higher during training) - Vietnam Service had a 2% excess rick. The primary TANG danger was the lack of 0/0 ejection capability in the F-102. Hence a takeoff or landing flameout was fatal. Guess when a flameout is most likely!

Combat missions (which Bush flew to intercept Russian bomber probes) were more dangerous. In those days they didn't have Heads Up Displays. To look at the targeting radar, the pilot had to look down into a radar scope, losing eye contact with the horizon (which may not be there on a night mission) and also losing contact with instruments. The missions were often flown over the Gulf of Mexico, adding to the danger if one had to bail out.

The whole thing looks dangerous to me, as a pilot. It is very easy under those conditions to lose control of the aircraft or to develop vertigo (Ask the late Mr. Kennedy, who was flying a much more tame aircraft.) The consequence is likely to be fatal.

The "Champaign Unit" regularly lost pilot lives to accidents.

Kerry's duty was much more dangerous, but he was only in combat status for 3 1/2 months, with many days not on missions. Put it together and it balances out.

Personally, I wouldn't want to do either one, although at least the jet would be fun (according my late friend).

As far as the MSM goes, during the media hysteria over Bush's service in the TANG, I never saw or heard a mention of the fact that Bush chose the most dangerous job in the National Guard, and also the one that required the longest service. One was left with the impression that this guy ended up with some sort of sweet deal where he sat around sipping whisky on weekends, or something.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 26, 2004 3:23 AM | Permalink

Everyone knows that Bush was, in his younger years, a wastrel, as National Review put it. Bush himself has discussed it. But since the MSM chose to make a giant issue of his National Guard service, I am just adding some reality to the debate.

What everyone ignored in the frenzies was why Bush's National Guard duty was significant and why Kerry's Vietnam service and anti-war behavior was significant.

Although people, especially the left, hate the word, it is character. What do you learn about the candidate?

Bush had already been president for over 3 years. His character, like it or not, had been thoroughly exposed. Kerry, sitting in a safe Massachussetts seat, had not had his vetted.

In any case, the situation turned into a gotcha game, at least as played by the press. The gotchas about the past were not cast in the context of character, but were just carried in a narrative of this guy is [good/bad].

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 26, 2004 4:28 PM | Permalink

Seth: John M. doesn't realize that political correctness (PC) has come to roost on the Right big time, and the Swift Vets are one of the beneficiaries. Almost all of the classic PC signs are in evidence. The moral melodrama, the emphasis on the Swift Vets as victims (of the big bad media, of John Kerry), that bizarrely contorted reasoning seeking to preserve the total innocence of those victims (who of course were the attackers in real life), the tone of superiority that such victimhood grants, the inability to accept any criticism, the conversion of politics into a bad religion-- it's all there.

John Moore in particular is saturated with Right Wing Political Correctness, and it rots the mind just as much the left wing version, which was pretty bad.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 26, 2004 11:43 PM | Permalink


I find your remarks ironic. There is some PCism on the right - always has been. However, I don't think you are in a position to detect it accurately. Rather, I think you are just annoyed by Conservative logic.

One of the strongest characteristics of PCism is uniformity of thought and speech, with people with the slightest deviation being attacked. Sorry, but I won't cop to that. Victimhood is another, sure enough. Does that mean that anyone who is unfairly attacked, or those who stand up for them, is PC? Not likely.

The Swifties were poorly treated by the press. They were also the attackers. I have never, ever denied that they were attackers. I happen to agree that their attacks, if true, were important. I have mentioned that some of the attacks on them were akin to the attacks Kerry made on Vietnam vets in 1971. I also want to point out that this was an issue for Vietnam vets, especially Swifties, and for us the post-war activities of Kerry's were beyond reprehensible. We were attacking because we felt that his actions disqualified him, and his actions towards us were among them. In other words, part of this was personal. I don't expect you to understand.

Moral melodrama?

Contorted reasoning? Did you find it that hard to follow?

Since the day the Swiftvets popped up, Jay, you have attacked them in very strong terms. You have never considered the evidence as far as I can tell. You appear to have been immediately disgusted and closed your mind. And you call me PC? But hey, I'm just a mind rotted PC conservative.

I have heard the most absurd charges against the Swifties, the silliest of which was guilt by association because of John O'Neil's pep talk by Richard Nixon in 1971.

But they aren't your victims. They won, you lost.

And I don't play political correctness. I have been straightforward in explaining my position and my arguments. Show me the evidence is wrong, I'll check and adjust accordingly.

So here are some facts that I think should tar the MSM.

The Swifties were effectively ignored at their first press conference. The members of the MSM present indicated their concern that this was a powerful story (a friend was sitting with them). The MSM did its readers a disservice, because the later surfacing of the SBVT was a surprise.

When the Swifties story became inescapable, the New York Times took 8 days to write a story about them. Stories tended to be negative and superficial in most cases.

The press grossly overplayed the National Guard stories.

The press grossly underinvestigated John Kerry's past.

Rathergate was just Dan Rather getting careless in his otherwise long record of unfair and one-sided hit jobs on CBS 60 minutes.

The Abu Ghraib story was grossly overplayed. It involved a command failure in a small unit that was already under investigation. It generated close to 100 top of the fold and a total of around 160 stories in the New York Times. There is no question but that the press participated in an effort to smear our soldiers with the intent of smearing Bush. It was a despicable act by the press and damaged our nation's international reputation.

We are getting into a lot of old stuff.

As far as I am concerned (and have stated before), the big MSM issue to many of us is that old, boring bias narrative. The examples above fit into that framework.

If you need Conservative PC information, just give a holler. I'll consult the grand master of Conservative PC'ism to find out what to think and what to tell you. If I can figure out who that is.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 27, 2004 2:15 AM | Permalink

This will be my last comment on the case, John. It's a sickening episode and I have discussed it too much.

The Swifies won and I lost? That is very true, John. Except in the sense that they (and you, by extension) are going down in political history as smear artists who were quite effective. The long term verdict is not going to change. You'll probably tell yourselves it's the liberals at it again, another case of "bias," but the worm of doubt will always be there and it will not let go. That's why I told you some time ago to look up the case of Lee Atwater's deathbed regrets. Did you do that?

Thank you for agreeing that the Swifties were the attackers.

Long ago the Swifties were John Kerry's victims, you said again. The Swifities were victims of the news media, you said. Then you addded that George Bush is a victim of the press too. After the press conference where the Swifties were victimized, John O'Neill (head attacker) was later Ted Koppel's victim, was he not? Sure he was, John. Feelings of righteous victimhood have powered this group from the beginning and they continue to do so now. That was my point, and I used the image of conservative PC to make it.

The last word on this nauseating subject is yours, John. Prattle on and on as long as you like-- you know, to make sure all the factual points are nailed down. After that, I will delete all comments that mention the Swifties, and if I have the urge myself I will suppress it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 27, 2004 8:38 AM | Permalink

"He was hot where the prevailing style was cool. He took chances where the prevailing ethic was risk adverse. He was willing to be weird"

Dan's quirks and the "toughness" he always exalts have always been -- in my eyes anyway -- just a way to make himself part of the story. Sort of like when he was saying "Courage!" at the end of the broadcasts... weird? Yes. Brave? Certainly... he looked like a fool and just kept saying it. But not admirable. He was just trying to create some sort of Walter-Cronkite-esque legacy for himself.

Posted by: Lexy Langley at November 27, 2004 10:08 AM | Permalink


I'm late getting in here, but there are a couple of comments I wish to make.

Seth writes: "It's not citizens vs. Mainstream Media. It's Right-Wing Partisan Media vs. Mainstream Media."

As long as this remains the core belief of lefties, the right will always win. Seth (and many others) look at the picture and see the MSM (Mr. Rather and his ilk) as the centerline of a political spectrum that runs from left to right. That's an illusion. There is no middle. Attempts to create addmittedly Left-wing partisan media hasn't worked, because that position is already taken by the MSM. Anything else just comes off as extremism.

This is the core of Fox's success. There is no conspiracy of right wingers pulling strings. It's about Fox offering -- and people finding -- an alternative.

When MSMers try to "move to the center," what they actually do is move to the right and lefties feel it. That's because there is no center. Until lefties accept this reality, there won't be any viable strategies for winning politically, for the press (Fox included) only reflects what's going on in the country. The U.S. has shifted to the right.

In striking out at Fox, media liberals and observers accomplish only shooting themselves in the foot, because it simply validates reality. It's not Right-Wing Partisan Media vs. Mainstream Media absent Left-Wing Media. It's Right-Wing Media vs. Left-Wing Media. Always has been. Always will be.

Thanks for letting me share,


Posted by: Terry Heaton at November 27, 2004 12:22 PM | Permalink

In my opinion, the problem is not one of bias but of the mainstream forth estate letting opinions being published as fact when they contradict known facts.

From the International Federation of Journalists DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON THE CONDUCT OF JOURNALISTS

5. The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.
Unfortunately, the 2004 USA Election has been a victory of FUD over Facts.

Posted by: David Mohring at November 27, 2004 4:37 PM | Permalink

I am sick of the Swiftie Argument also. I have no concern for how it is portrayed by historians. I know the people and they are honorable. That's all I care about.

Much better to discuss why it was that the MSM tried so hard to torpedo Bush, and failed.

But back to those whose name is forever banned...

It's odd the way the left is so quick to use the victimhood narrative, in this case where the "victims" don't feel victimized but unfairly challemged. Victims go begging. Those who cannot be mentioned changed tactics instead. If everyone who complains about unfairness is somehow PC, it certainly restricts the dialog. It is very PC to mislabel people as part of silencing them.

One thing I founnd striking is that the only thing I have seen that evoked instant revulsion from you this year, Jay, was those who cannot be named.

I will leave you with an email that came in today on a Vietnam Veteran's mailing list. I don't contribute to this list and don't know how I got on it.

The Last Battle of Vietnam

It never occurred to me, ever before,
That our Navy would win the Vietnam War.
When they took to their boats in this year of elections,
With the mission of making some major corrections.

I shared their belief, John should not be elected.
And their view overdue, truth should be resurrected.
Yet I questioned the course they'd set themselves for,
Knowing how John was loved by the media whore.

Ignored and dismissed by the media queens
Being shrewd, savvy sailors they still found the means
To reach out to the people, to open their eyes
To a phony John Kerry and his war story lies.

With their very first ad, they torpedoed his boat,
A Cambodian Christmas would no longer float.
His heroics unraveled, his stories fell flat,
Especially that one 'bout his magical hat.

John called on his lawyers and media whores,
And threatened the Swiftees with vile legal wars.
But these warriors kept charging back into the fire,
And made the folks wonder, "Is Kerry a Liar?"

Till the question of whether he's telling the truth
Was still in their minds in the election day booth.
So the brave Swiftees gave us what we'd not had before,
They gave us our victory in the Vietnam War.

Those brave, stalwart sailors, falsely labeled as liars,
Stood firm and stood tall, kept directing their fires,
Steadfast, unrelenting, they served once again,
And defeated John Kerry, these honorable men.

All Vets can take pride, yes all, not just some,
That we won the last battle of Vietnam.
It took far too long to bring an end to our war
But we did, November Second, Two Thousand Four.

To our Brothers, forever, on that long black Wall,
You've been vindicated now, one and all.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 27, 2004 5:30 PM | Permalink

Jay: I realize that you want to ban some issues, but I want to respond to John Moore and the poet above (who again lost the Vietnam War, if we look on it that way).

To John: What you don't seem to realize is that the emphasis on baby bush's ANG service had nothing to do with the danger of it. Rather, as someone who was subject to the draft myself, although earlier than Vietnam, it was the perception of that time which was the issue. In the 50s and 60s, it was the perception that it was much safer to take part in the National Guard than to let oneself be drafted. That was the perception and it counted for more than the truth at that time. Flying jets was dangerous (a man who graduated two years ahead of me in high school, flew his Navy jet fighter into a hillside at the age of 28). But baby bush supposedly was advanced past other candidates for the elite squadron in an effort to escape the draft. Did he actually serve on active duty at all? From what I have read that is not clear to me.

As a devil-may-care with an obvious Oedipus complex (which explains the Iraq war), he wanted to impress Daddy and maybe overcome some of the censure for his life style by following Daddy into flight school, but without being sure of going to Vietnam. I know an ANG pilot who did wind up in Vietnam and survived.

Which brings me to Dan Rather. First, I'd like to say that those who watch and read the mainstream media are far better informed about what's going on than those who read wingnut literature or hear wingnut voices from both sides. Yes, the MSM makes errors. And Dan Rather made an error; he reported on documents without have sufficient background on them to be able to verify their truth when challenged. And from what I have read on fair sites and news report, they have not been verified as forgeries. That seems to depend on your knowledge of typewriters and since I used an old IBM ball selectric from 1976-78, what people say about that doesn't phase me. I also know enough about typestyles of the time, typewriter and others, to know that you had difficult differentiating them and that because of the way they got printed from hot lead, paper type, and typewriters, they would not necessarily be the same from one typist to the next.

The main-stream press and the left in this country have become the target of a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy them, involving distortion and outright lies. The liberals and progressive in the U.S. were the ones who made the middle of the 20th Century the years of the well off middle class, growing out of the populist movements of William Jennings Bryan through Teddy Roosevelt, up until the destruction wrought by Richard Nixon and culminating in the out and out failures of the late, sainted Teflon President Ronald Reagan. Now we are engaged in a sophisticated, orchestrated campaign to turn our republic into an empire, with the Pax Americana to be a direct descendant of the Pax Romana.

Baby bush continues the misdirection with a Save the Forests initiative that will result in logging the west, a clean air law that will allow power companies to increase their air pollution, and an Iraqi Freedom movement that is destroying our foreign credibility. What happened to Dan Rather is part of the right wing movement (it's not organized enough to call it a conspiracy) to discredit those in this country who worry about more than themselves and the bottom line.

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at November 27, 2004 7:15 PM | Permalink

The considerable Right- or Left- bashing commentary contained herein doesn't really seem to move the discussion forward. In the "Reaching for Moral Values" post below I vented a little about some news coverage I thought was regularly repeated and continuously poor.

I wonder now if it shows not bias from the left, which I had presumed it to be, but simply lazy journalism. It may be that some of the concerns expressed by those decrying bias towards the left or the right are actually seeing just poor journalism that appears to be bias.

It would be nice to leave the Swift Boat and TANG to the historians. I'd just as soon instead label repetitive bad journalistic trends for what they are. What appears as bias is simply bad journalism.

Posted by: sbw at November 27, 2004 8:16 PM | Permalink

I'm not willing to give up on why Jay is so taken with Ron Suskind and I am not. Accordingly, I went back over Suskind's Salon interview and posit that he would have had more success had he opposed "Fact-based reality" with "Assertion-based reality" and left faith out of the equation.

Posted by: sbw at November 27, 2004 11:46 PM | Permalink

Bush served almost 2 years on active duty. Why you think that the perception is more important the the facts is beyond me. As you correctly state, flying jets was dangerous. If some people had the mistaken impression that it was a good way to dodge the draft, that's their problem and shouldn't be Bush's. I think the guy wanted to be a fighter pilot like his father had been, but wanted to avoid the long term duty required of a regular air force pilot. So, he chose the National Guard (the unit he joined was short fighter pilots and looking for them at the time. The PI that was done in Bush's favor (without his knowledge) was unnecessary. I understand the motivation because I did something similar with the Naval Air Reserve (and did go to Vietnam).

Then you go off the rails... Oedipus complex explains the Iraq operation? Give me a break. Freud has been 95% discredited for decades. There are plenty of reasons for Iraq - that's most absurd I have heard. Furthermore, that is a charge of mass murder against Bush - something I don't think should be tossed around casually.

"The main-stream press and the left in this country have become the target of a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy them, involving distortion and outright lies."

And I'm glad to be a tiny part of that, except the effort is to reform the press, educate the left, and no distortion or lies are necessary. And you won't believe that either. The MSM performs many valuable functions. But it would be nice if it were much more balance, and also more competent. The left is hung up with infantile fantasies and is probbably hopeless.

What happened to Dan Rather is hubris. The SOB deserved it. I'm hoping for lots more hubristic events among the MSM. Maybe they could then earn a little respect. Let's just say I am anticipating shadenfreude. Of course, the left is also planning to enjoy shadenfreude by criticizing the hell out of anything that goes wrong in the war on terror.

As someone in AZ, don't get me started in Save the Forests. You and I will disagree. I have watched over 500,000 acres of my favorite Ponderosa forest burn under the old management, coincidently destroying a large amount of Mexican Spotted Owl habitat. I'll defer to my uncle, with a PhD in Forest Economics and a lifetime in the USFS to advise me on this.

Posted by: John Moore at November 28, 2004 1:56 AM | Permalink


I'm hoping the right / left bashing fades from here.

I don't buy Suskind's view. In fact, I think the media gets wildly absurd when it assumes the mantle of being reality-based and then casts Bush as making decisions based on something else.

I read an article in liberal press (like Salon) that have one view of what goes on in the White Houses, and then read one in a conservative magazine (which has friendlier access) and it would appear that the world has two White Houses that operate completely differently.

The Bush White House has a lot of very smart people. I would be surprised if they stuck around AND managed to avoid leaking if the was an anti-reality principle in operation.

Posted by: John Moore at November 28, 2004 2:02 AM | Permalink

Jay, let's talk about the press.

Posted by: JennyD at November 28, 2004 3:40 AM | Permalink

Indeed, Jenny, let's. I said I would give John the last word and I did. I have edited comments accordingly.

Question: For something I am writing (could turn into the next PressThink) who here believes the press "lost the election," or was one of the big losers? Why?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 28, 2004 8:38 AM | Permalink

Jay: who here believes the press "lost the election," or was one of the big losers? Why?

Main Stream Media (MSM) was given a healthy dose of castor oil during the election to shock it back to remember that "The Press" is an accolade that has to be re-earned every single day. Trust is the only thing The Press has to sell and once lost, it can never be regained.

After World War II, there were so few channels that MSM was presumed to report "the news". Few in the audience were in a position to know any different. Today, so many alternative channels are available that MSM is seen to present one version of news for which it can be evaluated. Viewers and readers have an opportunity to drill down to detail previously unavailable. This demands a new set of evaluation skills. (Education previously never parsed the nuance of whether good citizens should be followers or independent thinkers. No longer is there the choice. Meek followers are fodder for demagoguery.)

The loser in this election, thankfully, is The Big Show, whose players include the likes of:

  • CBS News' Dan Rather who presumed that when a network television anchor like Walter Cronkite said "And that's the way it is." that he was chosen to decide which way it was. It's the same thing as CNN's Lou Dobbs, the Anchor with the Mission.
  • The White House reporter who presumes to represent The People and instead represents only clawing correspondents aching for three minutes of prime time ending with a dramatic closing zinger.
  • The talking head "experts" who unmercifully project conjecture as if their presumption were predestined and as if it were news: "If the deficit keeps growing...", "If the attacks continue...", "If ...".
  • The purveyors of cheap, easy stories, "Three soldiers were killed in Iraq today." that drive out the breadth of understanding necessary for a full picture.
  • The escape from judgment represented by "He said/She said" and "Point/Counterpoint". Both are an abdication of finding the worthwhile wherever it is.
  • The CNN Wolf Blitzer titillating teaser.
  • And spinmeisters of all political stripes.

The winners were those willing to think, willing to learn, willing to judge and hold the reasons for those judgments up for examination. Willing to learn from experience. Willing to dampen the noise.

WIlling to be human.

The Press is an extension of humanity -- of community. The Press did not lose in this election, but some who presumed to wear its mantle were discovered not to belong to The Press at all. That is a big win.

Posted by: sbw at November 28, 2004 11:38 AM | Permalink

Can anyone think of a social practice of comparable "weight" in our national life that was able to sustain or improve its position with less innovation than big time political journalism undertook from, say, 1972 to 2002? I can't, but maybe others know of cases.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 28, 2004 2:02 PM | Permalink

"The winners were those willing to think, willing to learn, willing to judge and hold the reasons for those judgments up for examination. Willing to learn from experience. Willing to dampen the noise."

How were the time constrained mainstream audiance, the vast marjority of the voting public, expected to make a choice?

From FUD over Facts: "Sadly, even the most popular alternative source reaches a small fraction of the audience covered by the mainstream media. However, to even that small fraction, those same sources have utterly failed to present an overall palatable, concise and coherent position to the opposing or undecided viewers. ..."

"... Both the mainstream political and technical news media are failing to follow the ethical standards necessary for people to make informed choices. When articles and content do not concur with known facts, or the journalist fails to seek and give enough time for an opinion from an opposing party in reply, it's not enough to claim that people are free to search for and consult other sources that have differing opinions. Such lack of action on the part of journalists is responsible for adding to the Confusion, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Journalist and news media organizations are not performing their job and society and the consumer suffers as a result."

Posted by: David Mohring at November 28, 2004 2:39 PM | Permalink

Jay : Can anyone think of a social practice of comparable "weight" in our national life that was able to sustain or improve its position with less innovation than big time political journalism

I can't think of checks and balances that were effective for those 30 years. Checks and balances are fabricating themselves now. Using them, I can decide not to watch CBS and Fox.

Posted by: sbw at November 28, 2004 2:47 PM | Permalink

Well, John, if you think it's about facts and not about perception, let's talk about advertising in the U.S., shall we.

You say you're from Arizona; that explains a lot considering how that state seems to approach facts and future.

I would suggest that the big winners in the election were the right wing media and the right-wing blogs. They have learned a lot from the propaganda methods of the late, unlamented Herr Goebbels.

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at November 28, 2004 2:48 PM | Permalink

Chuck: I would suggest that the big winners in the election were the right wing media and the right-wing blogs. They have learned a lot from the propaganda methods of the late, unlamented Herr Goebbels.

Think, Chuck! Think! Consider the MoveOn commercials and Michael Moore before you lob such softballs for even the novices to hit out of the park.

Posted by: sbw at November 28, 2004 4:38 PM | Permalink

This article, out today, leans a lot on PressThink's Opposition Press and Sinclair pieces, which are mentioned: David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun, Captains of TV weigh the future of the anchor: Personnel changes could open door to newscasts driven by ideology.

On Wednesday, Tom Brokaw will sign off as anchorman and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News, television's most popular newscast, after 21 years in that job. A report also is expected to be released this week about a 60 Minutes II story focusing on President Bush's military service that was presented on air by Rather and was based upon documents of questionable authenticity. Rather's decision to leave his longtime position was seen by many as a way of stepping aside before the report was finalized.

These moves represent what is, in essence, a changing of the guard. Night after night for 20 years, television news has been presented to Americans by the same three men - NBC's Brokaw, CBS' Rather and ABC's Peter Jennings - in virtually the same format. Now Brokaw's planned retirement and Rather's abrupt resignation have opened the door to a world of possibilities for TV news.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 28, 2004 10:22 PM | Permalink

Boy, reading Seth and Jay's comments here are convincing me that the left is learning absolutely nothing from the last election. Well, I guess it's more one-party rule for the forseeable future.

A major news anchor makes an attempt to sway the election for US president using obviously forged documents and there are doubts that he is both extremely wrong and foolish? What is there to discuss here?

And he was called out on it by a blogger.

Posted by: Mark at November 29, 2004 4:33 PM | Permalink

At 73 years old the chance of Rather going out on the beat doing investigative reporting is pretty close to zero. This was simply a way of sweetening his exit; to let him go with a little dignity.

Posted by: Orion at November 29, 2004 7:02 PM | Permalink

There are doubts that [Rather] is both extremely wrong and foolish?

Maybe you ought to read a little deeper, Mark. The links are there for a purpose. Use them. Rather is called wrong and foolish many times, and others at CBS get a lot of criticism.

Weekend Notes with Forgery Swrling in the Air. (Sep. 11)

Stark Message for the Legacy Media. (Sep. 14)

Rather's Satisfaction: Mystifying Troubles at CBS. (Sep. 18)

Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet and Sending Alerts? (Sep. 20)

Does CBS News Have a Political Future in This State? (Sep. 24

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 11:37 PM | Permalink

From the Intro