This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

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.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

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.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

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.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

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.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

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

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

January 10, 2005

After Trust Me Journalism Comes Openness: Rather Report Released

"...I hope that broken contraption "trust us, we're CBS," forces the network into the clear skies of a new idea: We used to do our reporting in a way that required the public to trust us, their professional journalists. It worked for a while, but times change. Now we have to do our reporting in a way that persuades the public to trust us. CBS News: are you up to it?

I like Jeff Jarvis’s take— that “calling for more commissions and committees and all that” just “puts yet more distance between the journalists and the public they are supposed to serve.” CBS, he says, “should be doing just the opposite: tearing down the walls, making journalists responsible for interacting with the public.” Then he gets it going:

This is bigger than Dan Rather. This is bigger than CBS News. This is about the news and the new relationship — the conversation — journalism must learn to have with the public, or the public will go have it without them.

It’s the last part that makes this week uncharted territory for CBS News and its leadership— and for us. They either participate in a new conversation about news… or the public will have it without them. And there is no doubt that the online public, at least, can do just that. It can take the Rather report and ask: where does broadcast news go from here? What has collapsed? What it’s going to take to re-build on a stronger foundation?

The public has its own press now, or the least the makings of one. That is new. It is in some way “pressing” for a larger role in the news; and as we have seen lately amateurs are actually capable of doing that. CBS would be wise to think about innovations in openness, an area where there has been very little thinking, experimentation or change in the news business. During its “trust us, we’re the pros” era, journalism was not concerned very much with openness. It was concerned with preventing interference in the news. It was concerned with professional autonomy— not transparency.

But now Linda Mason, the new Vice President for standards at CBS, has declared a new priority. “I think that day by day and story by story we’re going to earn back the public’s respect,” she told TV Newser on the day of the report’s release. “We’re going to be much more transparent. We’re going to tell our audience how we gather the news and report the facts.” (My italics.) But to become “much more transparent” will take changes in practice.

A simple example of a different approach: Sixty Minutes could publish on the Internet (as transcript and video) the full interviews from which each segment that airs is made. All interviews, every frame. Even the interviews that were not used. Producers and correspondents would instantly become more accountable for these interviews and the selections made from them. And in my view that would strengthen the journalism, make for better work; it would also be a revolution in accountability. CBS would be creating more value by publishing more source material, although it would also be more open to criticism and scrutiny.

Is it doable? I can’t say I know that. But no knows until someone determined and smart tries. I believe accountability journalism, which is the kind the professionals at CBS News still want to practice, won’t work any more unless the public can hold journalists themselves more accountable.

Personally, I hope that broken contraption “trust us, we’re CBS,” forces the network into the clear skies of a new idea: We used to do our reporting in a way that required the public to trust us, the professional journalists. It worked for a while, but times and platforms change. Now we have to do our reporting in a way that persuades the public to trust us.

Professionals at CBS News: are you up to it?

Publish the full interviews. That is but a single example that could be turned into fact next week. Hundreds of others are waiting to be activated in a similar way. If in the wake of the disaster a decision were taken at CBS to embark on a new course in openness, the professionals at CBS might soon realize that in having to re-build their division’s reputation they have been given a gift: The opportunity to clear away a crumbling and disordered professional house and pour a new foundation.

It would be new to base journalism on build-as-you-go trust, or on transparency and accountabilty in reporting methods. But that is the way to go if Big Journalism is itself to be held accountable. Likewise, it would be a new thought at CBS and elsewhere in the press— that conversation is the key to succeeding in news.

But if this report isn’t the shock that precedes new thinking in broadcast journalism, what report could ever be?

My other major reaction is that, like others, I am shocked that CBS News President Andrew Heyward still has his job. This is the reason.

As soon as the reporting of the Air National Guard story came under question, CBS had not one but two problems. The evidentiary problems with the story were one. The involvement—no, the immersion—of Dan Rather in the events thereafter was the other. Rather is the star of CBS News, the face of the brand, the personification of the news division. The anchor. Immediately it was clear that he had “bigfooted” the rest of the division and took over defense of a case in which he was accused. In effect, he was making policy for the network, as when he said that there is no investigation underway at CBS. There were huge dangers for Rather, for CBS News and for the network itself in allowing Rather to become so involved in defense of the story, which muted everyone else “under” Rather, leaving only Andrew Heyward, the boss, who did not act. He was the one who could have protected the brand and his friend, Dan Rather, by speaking truth to (star) power. The responsibility was his alone and he failed in the clutch.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links.

UPDATE, Jan. 11 Dan Rather releases a statement. It says nothing remarkable and gives no indication of learning from disaster. (See below for the full text)

Jeff Jarvis: The only cure for what ails CBS News is to sell it. He has a list of plausible buyers.

Spinsanity’s Bryan Keefer at CJR Daily: “It’s been little noted so far, but one of the most damning aspects of the Thornburgh/Boccardi Panel report about CBS’s September 8, 2004 segment on President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service is its description of the way the network allowed its news division to morph into a PR machine in defense of itself.”

Captain’s Quarters on how the role of bloggers is ignored or minimized by the review panel and Big Journalism accounts of the report.

Dan Gillmor on the same point: “It would have been smarter for CBS to thank, not make semi-snide remarks about, the bloggers who raised the important questions about the authenticity of the memos. But you can’t have everything.”

Smarter for CBS to thank bloggers? More truthful, sure, but why do you say smarter, Dan?

Your viewers know more than you do. If people at CBS knew about open source journalism they might have saved themselves a lot of pain. Thornburgh: “One of the things I think that surprised us was the fact that nobody within the CBS family seemed to have any appreciation of how tricky the process of authenticating documents is.” (From AP story.) This “appreciation” did exist online. But CBS didn’t know then about the powers of distributed journalism. And it wasn’t listening to the public conversation about its own report.

PressThink, Sep. 20, 2004: Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet? “A clerk who understood the Net, read the blogs and followed the press could have seen the danger signs accumulating day-by-day. But CBS made statements and took actions that showed a reading comprehension score near zero.”

Dan Rather, Statement on Memos, Sep. 20

Lawyer and blogger Patterico likes my suggestion about publishing the full interviews— and says it will never happen.

The Emotional Pumpkin likes the full-transcripts-on-the-Web suggestion: “Really, it’s a win-win situation. The public gets the transparency it’s so hungry for, and CBS instantly gets back some credibility, if only for displaying its willingness to be more open with the viewing public.”

Mark Cooper of The Nation and his own blog says I am on the right track with my suggestion. “As to CBS making this sort of paradigm shift — fat chance. No question in my mind that ‘the contraption’ – like all obsolete devices – will eventually be scrapped. But not quite yet. There’s still too much money being made off the old model. Only when a few more conflagrations burn through these guys’ pockets are we likely to see any major re-thinking.”

Ernest Miller at Corante: Why Does CBS News President Andrew Heyward Still Have His Job? and don’t miss his second post, Omissions and Other Critiques of the CBS News Report. Detailed and analytical.

Joe Gandelman, CBS’ Memogate Report Comes Out But It Won’t Stem The Controversy.

How did Heyward survive? Bill Carter, New York Times, Jan 11:

Mr. Moonves said he wanted to reinforce the leadership of Mr. Heyward and pointed to the panel’s conclusions that he made an effort to question the authentication offered for the documents in the report.

“It still happened under his watch,” Mr. Moonves said. “But I felt he did his job. He asked the questions that needed to be asked.”

David Blum in the New York Sun:

The only executive at CBS who relentlessly pushed Ms. Mapes to substantiate her reporting seems to have been its chief spinmeister; the report quotes liberally from e-mails sent by Gil Schwartz, the network’s executive vice president for communications, including one to Mr. Heyward five days after the piece aired, under the subject line Total Red Alert “Our entire reputation as a news division now rests on our fielding a couple of experts on our side TODAY,” Mr. Schwartz wrote. Why wasn’t Mr. Heyward writing tough e-mails like that?

Baltimore Sun:

“The issue for the viewer is: ‘Have you told me what you’ve really learned from this incident, and have you assured me that you’ve now put procedures in place that it won’t happen again at any CBS program?’” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “I don’t think they’ve told what, if anything, they’ve really learned.”

Report of the Independent Review Panel (pdf file.)

Les Moonves, Chairman of CBS, statement in response to panel report (pdf file)

Statement of fired Sixty Minutes producer Mary Mapes.

Epilogue: Dan Rather releases a statement:

The panel report is part of a process — a necessary process to deal with a difficult issue — at the end of which four good people have lost their jobs. My strongest reaction is one of sadness and concern for those individuals whom I know and with whom I have worked. It would be a shame if we let this matter, troubling as it is, obscure their dedication and good work over the years.

Yet good can come from this process if CBS News, and the hundreds of able professionals who labor every day to fill an essential public service in an open society, emerge with a renewed dedication to journalism of the highest quality. We should take seriously the admonition of the report’s authors to do our job well and carefully, but also their parallel admonition not to be afraid to cover important and controversial issues.

CBS News is a great institution with a distinct and precious legacy. I have been here through good times, and not so good times. I have seen us overcome adversity before. I am convinced we can do so again. That must be our focus and priority. And we can fulfill that objective by getting back to business and doing our jobs better than ever.

Lest anyone have any doubt, I have read the report, I take it seriously, and I shall keep its lessons well in mind.

Dan Rather

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 10, 2005 5:08 PM   Print


I've only read the 28-page executive summary so far, but it's a rather stunning indictment, as bad as we thought it might be but hoped it wasn't. I'm not sure what to call it; "bad journalism" doesn't quite describe it.

Posted by: Glynn Young at January 10, 2005 5:53 PM | Permalink

I'll have more on the report later, but I'm shocked that CBS News President Andrew Heyward still has his job:

Posted by: Ernest Miller at January 10, 2005 6:26 PM | Permalink

Powerline has posted John Hinderacker's take; and the NRO (Kerry Spot) posts Mary Mapes' response to the report.

While I agree with Jay's take on openness, this is not an auspicious begining.

Posted by: John Lynch at January 10, 2005 7:43 PM | Permalink

Well, at least we now know that Mr. Moonves doesn't believe that Mr. Rather is responsible for what he reads on the air, or says in interviews (Moonves statement on report in which he describes Mr. Rather as "pushed to the limit...overzealous..."). So much for the hard-hitting reporter myth in Mr. Rather's case.

Regarding Mr.Heyward, Mr.Moonves believes that directing a subordinate without follow-up (at least until the Sep 20th "regret") is how " executive of integrity and talent, and the right person to be leading CBS NEWS during this challenging time." should act.

CBS News needs a refresher in Management 101 as well as Journalism 101. Is Mr. Moonves part of the problem here?

No pun intended, but this is so bush league.

Posted by: oldtom at January 10, 2005 8:00 PM | Permalink


You say:

A simple example of a different approach: Sixty Minutes publishes on the Internet (transcript and video) the full interviews from which each segment that airs is made. All interviews, every frame. Even the people who were not used. It would instantly have to become more accountable for these interviews and the selections made from them. And in my view that would strengthen the journalism, make for better work; it would also be a revolution in accountability. CBS would also be creating more value, although it would also be more open to criticism and scrutiny.

I think it's a wonderful idea. But I also think it will never happen.

Have you read Bernie Goldberg's "Arrogance"? He tells a story that is relevant to your suggestion. The story is at page 31 of the hardcover edition. Briefly, a CEO who was the subject of a hostile 20/20 interview recorded the interview himself. Goldberg reports that the CEO, "fearing his comments might be taken out of context and that the interview might be edited to make him look bad" [editor's tongue-in-cheek note: does that ever happen in real life??] "took the unedited transcript and video of the entire interview . . . and put it out on the World Wide Web."

And ABC's reaction? They were not happy. As an ABC Vice-President told the New York Times: "We don't want other people attempting to get into and shift the journalism process." And another former ABC News Vice President, now a professor at the Columbia Journalism School, called the CEO's action "a not-so-subtle form of intimidation."

Got that? Making the whole interview available was "intimidation," in this fellow's view.

In the aftermath of this episode, a president of another major network news organization put out a memo directing that any interviewee would be allowed to record interviews, but would not allowed to rebroadcast the full recordings.

The president couched the issue in terms of the network's copyright. However, his memo also mandated that the interviewee could tape the interview only while the network's tape was rolling. What does that have to do with copyright? One suspects that the real concern was that articulated by the ABC News Vice Presidents: lack of control over what the public hears.

Here's the kicker: guess who the network president was who issued that memo prohibiting the release of full and unedited interviews?

You guessed it: Andrew Heyward.

So: good luck getting him to accept your suggestion. It's a good one, but it ain't happening.

Posted by: Patterico at January 10, 2005 8:13 PM | Permalink

Johnny A, of course the anchors don't write all that they read. What impression do you think that Mr. Rather is trying to convey by describing himself as Managing Editor and responsible for what his show airs? I'll dig up the links if you like. My issue here is charade (to be charitable), not bias.

Posted by: oldtom at January 10, 2005 8:24 PM | Permalink

I am not sure how openness, dialog, and conversation can occur without acknowledging the moose in the room.

If one does not speak openly of bias (without necessarily reducing the veracity of the speaker), one avoids truth, insults both speaker and listener, and fails to foster human connections.

In the report: Mapes knew some of her key claims were incorrect (waiting list for pilots, etc.); discarded expert opinion not convenient; shared information with DNC members; sought corroboration and possibly coordination from the DNC; and was under time pressure on a story for which she had worked for five years because of election timing.

To say that people are witch-hunting on the bias topic is to ignore the obvious.

Posted by: John Lynch at January 10, 2005 8:40 PM | Permalink

My opinion: Moonves set up a straw man - the firing of three women and the newly hired manager while not firing Heyward or Rather - in order to avoid the larger discussion, and disgust, with the editorial and reporting culture at CBS.

The public, bloggers, and press elite will pursue the strawman and ignore the larger issue (yet again.)

Posted by: John Lynch at January 10, 2005 8:55 PM | Permalink

Re: CBS News President Andrew Heyward... That's what you get with a faith-based presidency.

[Grin! It's a JOKE!]

More seriously, you can't argue with people unwilling to correct their blunders. So why try?

Since the report avoids entirely the authenticity of the memos, I think it is in order to issue a challenge to the public to come up with other National Guard documents that match the typography of the memogate memos and that verifiably come from the same period. The silence will probably be resounding. And telling.

Posted by: sbw at January 10, 2005 9:13 PM | Permalink

John, of course the bias issue needs to be addressed. Why did all these highly paid self-described heirs to Ed Murrow throw out basic standards like giddy teenagers who couldn't wait to go to McDonalds? Why did they ignore Journalism 101 during the stonewall? Supposedly, CBS is part of the cream of MSM. And they got the vapors over a story they'd been chasing for five years? Wanna buy a bridge?

The point I want to put on the table is that even before we get to content, agenda and bias, the traditional media need to recognize and repudiate the infallible gatekeeper mentality.

While I don't think that we have a tradition of unbiased reporting (Hearst, Pulitzer, McCormick, heck, William Cullen Bryant) I believe that it is a worthy goal.We need to be able to agree on a basic set of facts before we can argue over the appropriate action or policy.

In this case, I believe that CBS News' failure of basic journalistic and management standards is poisonous.

Posted by: oldtom at January 10, 2005 9:25 PM | Permalink


Jay brings this up in his starting post:

... uncharted territory for CBS News and its leadership-- and for us. They either participate in a new conversation about news... or the public will have it without them.

You are correct. The facts, the agenda, the management; each should be ascertained.

I am afraid the debating society will miss the point when all is said and done.

Lee Zeidman on Chris Mathews: "the was no intended bias." huh?

Posted by: John Lynch at January 10, 2005 9:31 PM | Permalink

I saw you on Hardball this evening. You made some good points but one that everyone forgot that absolutely PROVES the memos could not have been produced in the 70's is the presence of 'kerning'. Kerning occurs where part of a letter overlaps part of the following letter as in the "ty" of "authenticity". In this word the curl of the lower part of the "t" is overlapped by the following left arm of the "y". This was impossible to achieve on monospaced typewriters, the only kind available in the 1970s.

The other thing that noone is admitting is that OF COURSE the whole thing as political. The only reason Dan Rather stuck to his guns and fell on his sword rather than admit the memos were phony was that they were MEANT TO DESTROY A SITTING POTUS RUNNING FOR ELECTION DURING WARTIME!

That's what made these lies so dangerous and so evil!

Posted by: foreign devil at January 11, 2005 12:52 AM | Permalink

It was a fraud intended to influence the Presidential election. No evidence has been found that contradicts that.

Posted by: stan at January 11, 2005 1:20 AM | Permalink

Actually, the report does bloggers a favor by denying the obvious conclusion from its own facts. This way, bloggers have something important to point out about the report instead of merely crowing over CBS' downfall, and the degree of hypocrisy demonstrated by the network is more glaringly obvious.

Yes, these veteran reporters ignored EVERY priniciple of good journalism and rushed this bogus story to air, only coincidentally weeks before the election, and ignored all evidence contrary to the validity of the documentation, practically procured a book deal for their dubious source, but why would seasoned journalists act this way? It couldn't have been political agenda, because that would have tainted all the higher-ups. We just don't know what possessed them.

Posted by: AST at January 11, 2005 1:56 AM | Permalink

I was appalled at the descriptions of the machinations, the pleading, the twisting, the little lies told to get the story. This was an unclean manuever from day one, given all the hopping around. Some of the descriptions of Mapes interactions with other--producers, reporters--reveal not just her bias, but the sleazy way big term journalism is played out. The contraption had nothing to do with ethics here, much less bias. It was some grostesque, cell-phone based, email driven caricature of the Woodward and Bernstein story.

I'm glad I'm out of that game. Yuck.

Posted by: JennyD at January 11, 2005 2:07 AM | Permalink

Some more comments on the report, particularly some omissions regarding the "aftermath" part of the report:

Omissions and Other Critiques of the CBS News Report

Posted by: Ernest Miller at January 11, 2005 3:05 AM | Permalink

I think the liberal media hobbyhorse is tired and empirically false, but I'm stunned and angered by the clear, consistent, and willful misrepresentation of facts from CBS on this story.

CBS Tries to Lie with the Big Boys

Posted by: Ben Franklin/Mark Anderson at January 11, 2005 4:07 AM | Permalink

sbw: Since the report avoids entirely the authenticity of the memos ...

I don't think that's accurate. The report didn't avoid that issue. In fact, it walked right up to the line of the Panel declaring them not authentic, quoting and referring to Peter Tytell and the CBS experts that raised flags frequently.

Then, just for good measure, they included a report dedicated just to Tytell's analysis as App. 4 (pdf).

Certainly, you can criticize former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi for not declaring the memos "not authentic" as a conclusion by the Panel, but I don't think you can honestly say that the report avoids it entirely.

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 11, 2005 6:57 AM | Permalink

Ben/Mark -- I don't believe you're really angry, not for a second. But I hope you are, and if you wear the mask long enough, your face may change to fit the mask.

It worked to a good extent on closet racists. As a clear Leftist, I welcome your accurate description of clear misrepresentation of facts by CBS.

But the bias is mostly in the facts NOT said. If it wasn't politics, why did the show move its schedule? Why did Mapes persue the story in 2000, drop it, and start again for the next election?

Why doesn't Rather get the axe? Anyway, you can join Marc Cooper, if you wish, in being a Liberal willing to criticize both sides. I think that would be a improvement.

I think ALL folks interviewed should videotape themselves and the interview. And I think there should be News groups interviewing news folks of other orgs about why they do what they do. Out of the door of their office while they're on the street, hounding Dan with questions -- why didn't he know? How often did he lie? Why didn't he ask about Kerry's Form 180?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 11, 2005 7:06 AM | Permalink

God, I wish I found this as fascinating as all the navel-gazing pundits and bloggers. I've spent an evening and a morning following this and I am just done. I'm sure this will continue for a few days but for the life of me, I can't see all this "end of journalism as we've known it" stuff. One guy. One news organization. One bad story. I'm sorry - just who has been buying this whole "Tiffany Network" or "trust us, we're CBS" nonsense anyway? Who couldn't tell that CBS News was a tired, moribund organization gasping along mainly on fummes? When did Dan Rather exactly have all this credibility to begin with, anyway? One barely needed to scratch the surface of Rather's story (and everyone dove in with glee once this story started to unravel) to realize what a flawed vessel he'd been, for years.

Like many, I can only start from my own experience, when Rather ascended to the anchor post after years on 60 Minutes. I found him dull. I thought his delivery odd. That never, ever changed. CBS rarely broke a story. The best reporting - such as it was - they put on 60 Minutes, where they could go in-depth on a topic. And even that was often thin, and fraught with various agendas? People miss that? Really?

All of this heat generated from a dull report (really, 274 pages? Necessary?) sheds very little light, ultimately. If you needed a report to tell you that there's a problem with TV news, where on Earth have you been? Did you need an "expert" to tell you that increased partisanship and high-speed delivery has distorted news gathering operations to an almost unrecognizable degree? Gee whiz, this is the point where tv news has "gone too far"? Are you watching what they're doing that no one even bats an eyelash over?,/i>

The best check and balance on news reporting is... more news reporting. By professionals. By people who make it their job, not their hobby. By people who insist on getting out the facts, not the opinions. It amazes me how much raw opinion passes for journalism, how for all the talk of "liberal bias" the best answer conservatives have is... more, different bias. Why raise standards? Lowering them is so much easier, and all that yelling... it's so much fun. Isn't it? Isn't the only thing that matters that people are watching?

Well, that's it, I'm done. If it makes the blogosphere happy batting Dan Rather into a bloody pulp, so be it. Congratulations. That'll show 'em. That'll get us better journalism, for sure. What's more important than the media reporting endlessly about itself? Really, isn't that the point? Or am I missing something?

Posted by: weboy at January 11, 2005 7:46 AM | Permalink

I like the idea of accountability journalism, but suspect the requirements of libel law alone would make your suggestion to publish all unused materials unworkable.

Journalists’ picking and chosing from the glut of information they have gathered is an inevitable source of distortion, but this is not always a Bad Thing. It allows them to exclude the views of sources that they discover to be self-interested, misinformed, unreliable, or just lying.

The scandal here was actually that CBS failed to do this effectively. They ran a story that they shouldn't have based on dubious information. Publishing all information gathered would mean major dissemination of views journalists already know to be false or libelous. Encouraging less (but more accurate) publishing, not more, seems to be the obvious solution here.

In the competitive environment of contemporary journalism, the pressure is to jump the gun with dubius stories lest someone else grabs it first. This should not be encouraged just because the distributed fact-checking mechanism now exists. The emergence of journalism-as-conversation should not become an excuse for a "never wrong for long" culture.

Posted by: Martin at January 11, 2005 7:57 AM | Permalink

Sisyphus: you can criticize former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi for not declaring the memos "not authentic" as a conclusion by the Panel, but I don't think you can honestly say that the report avoids it entirely.

Point taken. Thanks for putting words in my mouth. I prefer your characterization to my own off the cuff expression of it.

Posted by: sbw at January 11, 2005 8:03 AM | Permalink

A formerly potent political tool - network journalism - has been abused one too many times.

Rather and CBS news president Heyward attempted to generate conversation with an intent that was personal 'rather' than professional.

Prove otherwise.

The facts are 'unimpeachable' (unless of course they're covered up).

Rather and Heyward's opinion flouted as fact, is impeachable.

The very individuals who hold themselves up as champions of getting the truth out to the public and doing their version of the new buzz word 'pulic service' ought to be served up with directions to the toilet. Even with that, it will be nip and tuck to get there in time.

Posted by: TJ at January 11, 2005 9:52 AM | Permalink

Rather's statement:

My god. His subordinates and superiors get canned and he takes no personal responsibility, although he "...shall keep its lessons well in mind."

I never thought that anyone could make Robert McNamara a paragon of accepting responsibility for ones actions/inactions.

He just doesn't get it.

Posted by: oldtom at January 11, 2005 5:15 PM | Permalink

Visual Quiz: Who's the Missing Link?

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 11, 2005 8:48 PM | Permalink

Good post, but I think you're not addressing one of the central issues of the report (and one that's drawing a lot of attention from the blogosphere). Namely, the report accused many of Rather's detractors of political motivations, while excusing the CBS team from similar motivations. I'd be interested in your take on this reaction. Does it simply display that the CBS report continues to misunderstand blogs in general, or is there some issue that needs examining here?

Posted by: Dan Miller at January 11, 2005 9:16 PM | Permalink

Jim Lindgren, Volokh Conspiracy, concurs with the CBS Report's double standard on probable political bias:

The CBS Panel "does not believe that political motivations drove the September 8 Segment." Further, after mentioning political agendas and bias, the Report says: "the Panel will not level allegations for which it cannot offer adequate proof."

Given those sentiments, the Panel is pretty quick to charge those who exposed CBS's fraudulent documents as having a political agenda.

Posted by: sbw at January 11, 2005 10:35 PM | Permalink

I also think the Panel displayed a the double standard on political bias.

The Mote, the Plank, and the CBS Eye

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 12, 2005 1:08 AM | Permalink

I read Pein. I wasn't troubled by his conclusion that he was unconvinced that the documents were not authentic as much as I was troubled by his explanation of how he arrived at that conclusion. His reasoning was flawed so his conclusion is suspect.

I wrote about it: Pein's Pain.

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 12, 2005 9:27 AM | Permalink

Your last paragraph is on the mark. The rest is not. Publish the unedited interviews? The background documents? By stating that, you assume CBS has no political bias, buying into the report. If CBS had no political bias, they wouldn't be in the ratings cellar like they are now. So how can they swing an election (like Mapes and one of the others at CBS stated in emails, change the momentum) if they have to make all their documentation available for scrutiny? How do they further their political agenda if they are not able to take statements and interviews out of context like they did with Memogate?

One aspect that hasn't been covered so far, is: what were the specific instructions given to the investigative panel when charged with the investigation?

And the most recent: Where was Dan on the night of the report release? Why did he duck the cameras? Why did Dan, the team player, leave it to the rest of CBS to answer questions on the report, take the heat, when he should have been front and center? "On assignment" is such a load of bull that it fails the smell test. He had the opportunity to be a real team player by showing some humility, by admitting that he's not perfect. By spinning the story into something that is positive, that CBS can help to right the ship. To help make the network news division something better in the future. Instead, he ducked out.

This is the mark of a coward, not an anchorman who is a team player. Dan Rather walked out on the team. From his statements to the commission, and reading between the lines on his statement on the report, he's still a believer in the report. He still believes he did nothing wrong, because he believes the story is true, the devil with the documents. So not showing up to anchor the news and take the heat on the night of the release of the report shows that he doesn't accept the report's findings. And because of this, he won't take the hit.

Courage? This is the mark of a coward.

Posted by: Agent Smith at January 12, 2005 10:17 AM | Permalink

A simple example of a different approach: Sixty Minutes could publish on the Internet (as transcript and video) the full interviews from which each segment that airs is made. All interviews, every frame. Even the interviews that were not used. Producers and correspondents would instantly become more accountable for these interviews and the selections made from them. And in my view that would strengthen the journalism, make for better work; it would also be a revolution in accountability. CBS would be creating more value by publishing more source material, although it would also be more open to criticism and scrutiny.

Thus far, this is the single best recommendation to come out of the post-report analyses. My main problem with MSM always has been not what they're reporting (although I have plenty of problems with that, too), but what they choose not to report.

Is it doable? Especially as regards transcripting interviews in toto, why the heck wouldn't it be doable? Whether or not they'll do it is a whole other question.

Someone else has suggested that if C-BS "News" had one or two people on upper level staff who weren't ideologically dedicated to the defeat of George Bush (you know, diversity in the work place), they might have been inclined to ask the right questions.

Posted by: Kyda Sylvester at January 12, 2005 11:06 AM | Permalink

I await the CBS/ 60 minutes on Kerry's Form 180, and all the known facts about each of his medals, including the NAMES of the person who wrote the official record.

But I don't hold my breath.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 12, 2005 11:44 AM | Permalink

Jay asks why I used the word "smarter" in a blog posting that said, in part: "It would have been smarter for CBS to thank, not make semi-snide remarks about, the bloggers who raised the important questions about the authenticity of the memos. But you can't have everything."

Like many other people, I wish that CBS would take to heart the grassroots developments in our craft. That would have been wise (and smart).

But I don't think CBS is, today, institutionally capable of truly understanding the value of listening to its audience -- of grasping how much help the audience can be in the journalistic process. The network's offhanded dismissal of the grassroots continues even now. (I know there are individual people at CBS who do get it. But they are not running things.) That said, it would have been at least tactically smart for CBS to have acknowledged the grassroots component of this debacle. Common-sense PR should have made this obvious. Is this a cynical comment on my part? I guess so, but I hate to see the network compounding the damage so unnecessarily, in part because (unlike some in the blog world) I still value the good stuff CBS does.

CBS News' journalistic contributions have been enormous over the years. It would be tragic if this situation causes further deterioration of a once-great enterprise, which still does important work.

Eventually, the network will figure all this out. I hope that won't be too late.

Posted by: Dan Gillmor at January 12, 2005 2:51 PM | Permalink

All CBS is for this crowd Dan, is the ultimate scapegoat. What they want is nothing but networks of Bush affirmers: Stepford reporters. I don't think we've sunk that low, yet. Hey, maybe they could pay the networks off like the did with Mr. Williams? That even got George Will's gander up so there's hope. Just not here.

Posted by: John Q. Public at January 14, 2005 12:23 AM | Permalink

Form 180 babble, still. Amazing.

Posted by: John Q. Public at January 14, 2005 12:24 AM | Permalink

Maybe this is old hat to reporters, but I found this quote amazing, if true:

"[...] anybody who has worked with investigative reporters will recognize the fact-shaving, source-buttering, and ethics-skirting practiced by Mapes and her colleagues. Investigative reporters are a different breed of human being, possessed of the absolute conviction that their wild hunches are provable. They're well-practiced at selectively quoting people and documents, overstating their case, and shamelessly revising their previous statements at a moment's notice if they believe it will serve their project. And that's no slam. Investigative reporters don't construct their stories from press handouts; they burrow into deep, dark, and dangerous terrain to uncover truths. If they weren't as resourceful at compromising reality, we'd have no investigative reporting at all."


Posted by: Brian Slesinsky at January 14, 2005 2:20 AM | Permalink

Investigative reporters are biased in the sense that they seek to construct the truth based on the facts of each case regardless of the damages. To ask the question condemns us if we supposed to just look the other way according to hoile.

Somebody supplied the documents and the contents were verified by an inside eye witness. Copies cannot be by anyone. That can't be taken away by technicalities. It just dodges the question of "King's privilege."

Posted by: John Q. Public at January 14, 2005 9:50 AM | Permalink

From the Intro