September 16, 2005
The Net Knows More Than You: An Open Letter to the People of CBS News
It's the anniversary of the big collapse at CBS over the National Guard Memos. "People of CBS News, you've had a year to think about it. How, if you are dedicated to truthtelling, could you have permitted the near destruction of your network's reputation for telling the truth? What explains your silence, September 9-20, 2004?"
I was asked to be the first guest blogger at Public Eye, the new blog that acts like an ombudsman (sort of) at CBS News. This ran there today under the title, “Outside Voices: Jay Rosen’s Open Letter To CBS.” Here is my slightly expanded version.
To: The People of CBS News
From: Jay Rosen
Re: The Internet and You
Welcome to the Internet, everyone. And I do mean everyone. According to Larry Kramer, the boss of CBS Digital, “all 1,500 people at CBS News now also contribute to CBSNews.com.” That means you’re all Web journalists now— by decree, as it were.
Kramer, after selling Markewatch.com to Dow Jones and making a bundle, told CJR Daily that what excited him about coming to CBS was running an online news operation “that is funded largely by television revenues.” Not having a cable network has become an advantage for CBS, because “with the advent of broadband on the Web, the Web is really a much more attractive place to get news, even news video, now.” In other words, the web site is your cable channel.
Things are looking up for you guys. Public Eye is part of that. The transparency revolution in network news has started, and CBS gets the credit for going first. But I want to make sure you understand it, and how we got here.
Dick Meyer, editorial director of CBSNews.com, says here that Public Eye is not a response to the “the National Guard memo disaster at ‘60 Minutes: Wednesday’ and the Thornburgh-Bocardi report on it that came out in January 2005.” That sounds like a party line to me, and I don’t know what good is served by it.
Reading the Signs
Exactly a year ago—during that flight from truthtelling that overcame your network when Sixty Minutes aired its doomed segment on President Bush’s National Guard service—I was frequently on the phone with reporters from the big national newspapers, who were calling for quotes and impressions. (I had been writing about the episode at my blog, PressThink.)
We—the reporters and I—knew the story was in grave trouble. And we could never figure out why the people running CBS News did not seem to know. After all, they were journalists, capable of reading the signs.
Let’s take September 14, 2004, a typical day in the scandal. There were no developments that confirmed CBS’s account, and many developments that undermined it. On that day:
- Marcel Matley, the lead expert Sixty Minutes relied on to examine the disputed memos from Bush’s former commander, said he only checked the signature of Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves, which he couldn’t do anyway, he said, because they were copies. (This had been predicted September 10th by blogger Wizbang, who looked up Matley and found he was a handwriting expert, without expertise in other forensic areas.)
- Marian Carr Knox, clerk and typist for Killian, said the documents CBS had were not authentic. One figured she would know.
- The Washington Post said it compared “memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush’s National Guard service” and found “dozens of inconsistencies,” naming “three areas of difference that are difficult to reconcile.” Meaning: it was hard to see any plausible defense.
- The Post also quoted computer typesetting expert Joseph M. Newcomer, who said he was 100 percent sure the documents were fake, and that he had produced exact replicas of them on Microsoft word. (Bloggers, of course, had first found this could be done.)
- Mary Mapes and her team at Sixty Minutes provided Dan Rather with talking points to use in defense of the doomed story. “The criticism comes from two main areas,” they wrote. “Partisans and the competitive response of other news organizations.” As if partisans couldn’t have their facts right. As if Marcel Matley and Marian Carr Knox were competitors. (See the Thornburgh Report, p. 189.)
- And that night on the Evening News, John Roberts, speaking for all of you, said “CBS News continues to stand by its reporting.”
Why did he do it? How could he say it?
Part of the Same Ecosystem
“I had serious suspicions about the authenticity of the documents on the morning after they were aired,” said Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post on September 21st. “I find it difficult to believe that people in CBS did not develop similar doubts soon afterward.”
Me too: impossible to believe. But what happened to those doubts?
Within hours of the broadcast, the bloggers (some of them enemies of the network) were raising rude questions about the documents, running clever tests of their own, getting named experts to say there was something wrong here, while CBS was still refusing to say who its experts were. Nightline did the “serious suspicions” story that night (September 9th), and the Washington Post published one the next day.
As Jessie Walker of Reason magazine later wrote: “The professional media drew on the bloggers for ideas; the bloggers in turn linked to the professionals’ reports. The old media and the new media weren’t at loggerheads with each other… They complemented each other. They were part of the same ecosystem.”
Now the people of CBS News have officially joined that system, or been joined to it by Kramer’s strategy, and the broader thinking that’s been going on at the network since the retirement of Dan Rather from the anchor’s chair.
Why do people read blogs? On September 20th of last year I did a post called: “Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet and Sending Alerts?” (He didn’t.) This week is Public Eye’s debut. It puts Vaughn Ververs and his staff in charge of reading the Internet and sending alerts.
On January 10th of this year I suggested at my blog that CBS News “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.” The Web makes it doable and it would help with transparency, I said.
Six months later Larry Kramer told CJR Daily: “We’re going to be offering up what used to be considered just work product… there’s no reason we can’t allow our users to see the whole thirty-minute interview if they want.” The Web makes it possible and it would help with transparency, he said.
See how we complement each other?
Transparency Will Change You
“If you’re looking for a journalism professor to render absolute verdicts, this probably isn’t the place to be,” Vaughn wrote in his first post at Public Eye. Well, I’m a journalism professor, and here is my verdict: Transparency will absolutely change you, and it already has. If you don’t change with it, you will lose.
We sometimes forget that the sad events at CBS News a year ago began with an act of transparency. After broadcasting its report (called “For the Record”) Sixty Minutes put the Killian Memos on the Net. That’s how the whole thing started.
People of CBS News, the Net knows more than you. The chances are fairly high that a given producer at CBS would not know enough southern history to grasp what Senator Trent Lott was actually saying when he praised Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign for president. The chances of the blogosphere not knowing this background are zero.
“The sheer number of blogs, and the speed of response, make errors hard to sustain for very long,” writes Andrew Sullivan. “The collective mind is also a corrective mind.”
Now we are met in happier circumstances, launch week for Public Eye. Instead of an ombudsman, a weblog and staff to create a dialogue that acts like an ombudsman. Good idea. It worked well here, narrowing the differences between the National Review’s media blogger, Stephen Spruiell, and CBS News.
It didn’t work so well here. Tuesday, the CBS Evening News ended with an heart-warmer (a guy who loves ducks.) Public Eye jumps in with a question: “With such an overwhelming amount of news about Hurricane Katrina—most of it depressing—when and how does a broadcast decide that it’s time to include something unrelated and upbeat?” Listen to the answers Hillary Profita got:
PE spoke with Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, senior broadcast producer for the “Evening News,” about how the decision to include Blackstone’s piece came about.
“It is two weeks plus after the hurricane,” said Ciprian-Matthews, “and we felt like it was the right time to do something else. That kind of feature was uplifting and didn’t detract from hurricane coverage and it just felt like the right time to do that.”
The Old Opacity
It just felt right. Uplifting. Didn’t detract. That’s her answer. Todd Gitlin, a professor at Columbia University, is brought in: “They think, and they may be right, that there is a portion of the audience that badly wants these gestures of reassurance and would flee otherwise.” Ciprian-Matthews says no way…
“Yesterday, we weren’t thinking, should we do something so that we don’t lose audience? The day comes when you walk in and say, we’ll cover the big headlines, but let’s also go with something a little more uplifting. It was a good story and that’s why we did it, because it was a good, well done piece.”
Her non-reasons are not the new transparency, but the old opacity:
Q. Mr. County Executive, could you tell us how and why the decision was made to build a waste treatment plan near all these poor people’s homes?
A. A day comes when it just feels right to go with the decision we made, and that’s what we did, we went with it. We made it because it’s a good decision.
I don’t think Ciprian-Matthews is trying to snow us. That’s the scary part: she gave us the explanation that in her mind exists! Maybe in the newsroom that counts as “reason.” To the rest of the world it sounds empty and tautological. She would have been better of with no comment.
I’ve been listening to journalists say it for fifteen years: the public doesn’t understand how we work, we have to explain ourselves more. Public Eye, if it works, is going to reveal when there are no good explanations— or none that make sense beyond newsroom culture. Transparency, you see, does not automatically increase trust. It could raise the curtain on an explanatory show that flops. It’s not enough to be open. You also have to have something insightful to say.
People of CBS News, you’ve had a year to think about it. How, if you are dedicated to truthtelling, could you have permitted the near destruction of your network’s reputation for telling the truth, during the events I have discussed? What explains your silence, September 9th to 20th, 2004? Did you think you were helping CBS by suppressing the doubts and disbelief you must have felt? Did you learn anything from the experience?
You may think you’re past all that. You may think: it’s done, old news. But this is supposed to be a conversation, and I want to know, and I am not alone. So as I like to say at my own blog, if you have a thought hit the comment button. And congratulations, all of you, on making it to the Web.
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links
You can check the comments at Public Eye to see if anyone from CBS News takes up my questions. Not that I expect it…
Jeff Jarvis picks up on that theme:
It’s a pity that the people of CBS News do not speak back.
I fear they’ll fear doing that — and also that they’ll look at the post and see that, unfortunately, trolls have moved into the comments and the discussion there is not deep. That is not helped by CBS’ inexplicable decision to put a 500-character limit on comments (this isn’t TV, folks: bits are not scarce) as well as its decision to shut off comments after 24 hours (time’s no longer scarce, either, guys). The discussion over at Jay’s blog, under the same essay, is much better: more substance, more intelligence, more relevance, more to chew on.
Jeff also says that I’ve “built a community of conversation — around what we used to think of as a reputation.” I don’t know. To me the conversation in comments is barely hanging on through the culture war static, while the proportion of witless and repetitive MSM-bashing swells. There’s witless and repetitive Bush bashing too.
I know what he meant and I thank him for the observation, but I have to disagree with Jarvis that there is any PressThink “community,” which to me implies shared values. It’s a public space with regular characters, and some great and passionate writers who will put a lot of thought into their posts. I am very grateful to them. To me, comment threads, which I watch over very carefully, are nine-tenths frustration and they usually fail. But then lots of people say they’re the best part of PressThink, so…
Public Eye debuted with a terrible comment system. (But at least it has one; this site doesn’t.) Here’s Dick Meyer, editorial director at CBSNews.com, trying to get a handle on problems with Public Eye’s set up:
Jeff Jarvis, early adviser to and tough critic of Public Eye, has remarked on the quantity and quality of the comments on Public Eye. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we expected and probably hoped for more, but we were also warned that it takes time, lots of it. We’ve received plenty of brainy and contrarian comments, for sure. Some nice ones, too. And we’ve been swamped by useful criticism and tips, though a lot of it has come via e-mail not comments.
Still, we’d like a better conversation, more substantive, less knee-jerk MSM-bashing. Suggestions?
That’s CBS News asking for your suggestions… Also, Dick Meyer did drop into Buzzmachine’s comments.
And… Dick Meyer, editorial director, CBSNews.com, in comments here:
First of all, thanks for the Open Letter to CBS News that we posted on Friday. I was proud to have it on Public Eye and it helped get us off to a frisky start. I say that event though you essentially called me a liar in your piece… I also thought you were gratuitously snarky on the ducks piece, nasty about the senior producer who talked about it without articulating any actual argument as to why she deserved your personal and condescending scorn.
There’s more, so read it and my reply.
Jay Rosen at Dick Meyer’s Public Eye post asking for suggestions on their comment system: “You should have someone research it: current finding among students of the Web is that for large sites moderated threads are the only real answer. An unmoderated forum will always fail.”
Bill Quick, the proprietor at Daily Pundit, has an extremely intelligent response to this post. Here’s an excerpt:
Because, you see, the blog form is not a magic wand. It can be used to conceal, to make opaque (or to continue opacity) just as easily as it can be used to reveal. Blogs are just as transparent as the intentions of those who write them. To repeat what Jay asked earlier, “How, if they are dedicated to truthtelling….?” I think to this day, Jay assumes that CBS was, and is, dedicated to truthtelling. [But if] they were, they would have admitted that those documents were forged, and they would have moved heaven and earth to expose and tell the truth about how that came to happen.
Read the rest.
Profile of Public Eye editor Vaughn Ververs in Broadcasting & Cable magazine: CBS News Sentry Assumes Post.
Prior PressThink posts on CBS, Dan Rather and the Killian Memos:
Posted by Jay Rosen at September 16, 2005 1:07 PM
You can believe CBS screwed up in some journalistic manner, getting the facts wrong and being too arrogant to admit it, even to themselves.
Or you can believe that CBS deliberately lied in order to throw a presidential election.
Which is true? "We did it because we're dumb." is probably better than "We did it because we're crooked."
But it will not reassure readers. Should it? CBS seems to think that having reassured us they aren't crooks is all that's necessary.
When it comes to choosing between the two, we may add two other pre-election happenings. One is the untended ammo dump story, al Kaka. We discover that CBS and the NYT had connived at holding the story--apparently no competitive pressure with this one--for a week in order to be too close to the election for a rebuttal to gain traction.
Shortly after the election, about fourteen seconds, this momentous lapse in US planning for Iraq became a non-story and has not been heard from since.
Ditto the flu vaccine shortage. By spring, the docs couldn't give the stuff away. But, since there had been word zero since the election, hardly anybody noticed.
Looking at the TANG story in the light of these two, among others, makes be doubt the "we're dumb" excuse.
Not that they aren't dumb. If Dan Rather had kept that old Selectric, Kerry might be president today.
So they're both dumb and crooked.
I don't see how they will ever change their reputation.
It is beyond the bounds of possibility that they will come all over honest all of a sudden. But that's the only thing that will do it, and only if they maintain it for years and years. Which they won't do in this universe.
They're screwed and they deserve it, having earned it fair and square.
From http://underthenews.blogspot.com ...
I've been a newspaperman since I co-founded my junior high paper at the tender age of 12, about 36 years ago. My final decision to become an ink-stained wretch was made in the heady post-Watergate days, the apex of journalism's nobility and the calm before the anti-"Media" storm. Back then, it was still possible for a young reporter to think of himself as a kind of knight who could change the world with his typewriter.
Clearly, things have changed. The idealism of young journalists has lost its edge, the world doesn't care too much what we say anymore, and the typewriter is a dusty decoration on my credenza.
And now I -- and many like me -- have been demoted from "knight" to "MSM." This blogging acronym for "mainstream media" oozes a certain flippant disrespect, as if a life in journalism is not merely the least qualification for a blogger, but might even connote to Blogospherians an intolerable cowardice, arrogance or treachery. Many -- maybe most -- bloggers might just as well hang out a sign: "We don't want your kind 'round here."
I'm too new at blogging to understand the nuances. The blogosphere is certainly not a utopian society, free of prejudice, deception, crime, or other sins. It's merely an extension of the old-model society, like a neighborhood on the other side of the Monorail tracks. So I'm not particularly surprised that the "Old Guard" of the Information Age (the so-called MSMers) are held suspect by the New Guard (bloggers.)
But I'm curious about why. I hear regularly how the MSM lacks fairness (OK, and balance) but increasingly I believe that aggressive news-consumers aren't truly seeking reporting without bias ... they want reporting that reflects their own bias. "Fair" is a report that generally supports the reader/viewer's established opinions ... "unfair" is a report that allows for divergent viewpoints. Thus, the mainstream media, in striving to allow for differing views, cannot avoid being labeled as "unfair" ... and thus is demonized in the blogosphere (and apparently everywhere else that a person would be jealous of his opinions.) And in the Blogosphere, we are allowed to seek out the "fairest" opinions/reporting, i.e., the ones that fit our biases.
In my short blogging experience, I have sensed not just disdain for each other by both bloggers and MSMers, but a mutual paranoia that either might be the death of honest, accurate, important, genuine and noble information exchange. Personally, I believe more information is better than less, so I am not threatened by the Blogosphere, and I see its value in transmitting information that transcends the basic restrictions of mainstream media, namely space, time and mass audience.
I worry a little about the blogosphere's "Tower of Babel" and information-anxiety, but they don't keep me awake at night. Will the whole world soon turn to bloggers (and away from MSM) for information? It's doubtful. But to supplement their minimum daily requirement of knowledge and entertainment? Absolutely.
I really want to know, from non-MSM bloggers and MSMers alike, is the blogosphere a community that is made better or worse by your co-existence? Why should one side be viewed more or less skeptically than the other? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses in this diverse community, vis a vis MSM?
Talk to me, bloggers.
A few observations from a fairly liberal Democrat in Texas: for most members of the public, whatever their political persuasion, the most infuriating aspect of media hubris is journalists' tendency to pursue a meme of their choosing despite the obvious, overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The Katrina coverage is an excellent example. The prevailing meme now-- on the covers of Newsweek and the Economist, across the nightly broadcasts and the cable networks-- is the "shaming" of "racist America." Well, I live in Texas, and as a liberal nonbeliever I can tell you that I have never been prouder of my countrymen.
The extraordinary compassion, generosity and competence shown by hundreds of thousands of Texans (and others) effectively destroy the myth of America as racist. And yet the Economist, after mentioning in passing Gov. Perry's superb performance, devotes four paragraphs to junk predictions of future racist behavior by Texans, introduced by a Cat 5 storm of journalistic bullshit including vapid opining about how "[In Texas] race is inevitably a factor" and "some Texans (including many in the Republican base) will feel [inclined to send these black victims back to NOLA]...."
It's hard to know which is more astonishing: that comfortable, middle-class white Texans would spontaneously open their homes and schools to some of the most desperate and yes, dangerous, families in this country, or that our political and media elites would persist in painting these heroic people as racists.
The cognitive dissonance here is breathtaking. Americans have already given over $800 million of their own money, built or given tens of thousands of homes and apartments, opened their schools and churches to these poor people, and yet the headlines, op-eds, newscasts and cover stories are covered with "America's Shame" and "Racism!" I know it's a cliche, but in this case the media and political elites really are living in a parallel universe.
How on earth could anyone allege racism about families and church groups that have opened their childrens' schools to kids coming from the worst gang neighborhoods in the country? How many of the Beltway and Manhattan Bloviators would open their own kids' schools to kids from NOLA's 9th Ward?
The effort to paint this as America's "shame" is utterly ridiculous. Also unforgiveable.
Does that help?
Ron: You seem troubled by the concern that people will become voluntarily trapped in echo chambers as they seek and find minds of a kind with their own. It is certainly true that people will seek like-minded voices, but whether that is a problem is not so clear. The echo chamber of the MSM, where vast majorities of journalists are affirmed liberals and vote Democratic, doesn't seem to trouble you. Would it prove a categorically different or more dire concern for we simple-minded throngs below?
If you believe yes--that people can't know the "truth" or what's "good for them" when information passes through filters other than that of idealistic, liberal journalists--it only affirms your elitist snobbery, wholely at odds with democracy.
If, however, you believe that echo chambers are bad in any endeavor, then it raises the question of why you or the MSM don't find view-point diversity (e.g., liberal/conservative hiring balances) to be a priority in news offices across the country.
Facts are facts. "Truth" is sketchy. Liberal, conservative or whatever, we all know that a big hurricane happened on the Gulf Coast and that FEMA entered the scene after the storm hit. Didn't matter where I got my news. We all know there's a war in Iraq and that soldiers get killed there. The MSM's failing is in believing that, through good intentions and hard work, it can faithfully present the "true" implications or significance of these facts.
Did FEMA make unjustifiable mistakes? Is the Iraq war going poorly or appropriately apace? Affixing significance to one fact over another, or concluding whether some event or response is appropriate or justifiable, are inherently subjective and, ultimately, individual determinations. Each individual is free to make up his or her own mind based on the information he finds relevant, and seek affirmation from others.
The diversity of blogs allows people to do that. I don't have to "take their word for it." And if I discover that my favorite blogger is not worthy of my trust, I can go freely elsewhere. In the end, popular and compelling opinions will rise to the fore and help dictate policy. Perhaps the MSM can find a new consensus-building role for themselves in that conversation. But the days of the MSM's striving for enlightened consensus by fiat are over.
Ron - an example of a particularly loathesome, yet standard, MSM technique, taken from the Economist article on Katrina. They launch their four paragraphs of speculation with the delightfully vapid sentence, "Race is inevitably a factor." What does this mean? How big a factor-- like casual racial discrimination at, say, a major British weekly, or more like a race riot?
Rather than give actual examples of racist behavior by Texans, they quote Barbara Bush's fatuous but race-neutral line. Nothing more. No evidence, zip, nada. Then they trot out the MSM journalist's favorite weasel words of all: references to "some" or "many", ie to unnamed, unspecified, unquantified subgroups of the journalist's devising: "some Texans (including many in the Republican base)..."
Again, what does this mean? How many racist Texans are denoted by "some" and "many"? Would this number be on the order of, say, 15,000? (This is the population of little Newton County, TX, which has mobilized to create shelters for 1,000 Katrina victims). Or perhaps 3,000? (This is the number of apartments purchased by the Dallas Baptist Association for Katrina families).
And then comes the icing on the MSM cake, the Economist's appeal to an academic authority, who supplies the quote that ties the thesis together: Richard Murray of the U. of Houston predicts that the above Texans "will feel that we've got enough minorities in this state already." Succeeding paragraphs then go further into the blue sky, with speculations about how taking in the refugees will inevitably create "tensions" in other states as well.
So there you have it, folks: even when there is massive, *actual* evidence of myriad acts of selflessness by hundreds of thousands of flesh-and-blood Texans and other Americans, the Economist glides over this to inform us at considerable length that we can expect to see race tensions very soon. Evidence? None. Logic? Nothing but a snippet of an assertion by an academic.
Fake, but accurate.
And this is supposedly quality journalism, from the Economist! Are you beginning to understand why intelligent Americans hold so many members of your profession in contempt?
The fact that Bush-haters are still pushing the "fake but accurate," while MSM folks are unhappy, too, shows that the MSM still hasn't finished covering the story.
The Bush-haters claim that Bush cannot prove where he was, on duty (as the Vietnam war winded down), every day. This seems likely to be true; that there will gaps in proof of where he was. But lack of proof of attendance is not the same as proof of absence.
A similar issue is likely for the Swift Vets against Kerry, although Kerry's lie about Christmas in Cambodia is a bit less defended by the Bush-haters. It's also MUCH less mentioned in MSM.
Jay, you did fine defending yourself on John Roberts -- your quote clearly did NOT mention "anchor". Don't you hate it when somebody adds, or twists, your quote, and then attacks the twist?
But MSM folk do this a lot; "quote," and then 'meaning quote plus/minus' and this plus/minus is terrible because of the future.
The uncertain future, which is NOT a fact.
All the 'racism reporting' about the future is non-factual.
But Jay remains bothered by us MSM-bashers:
"Pretty much anything can be said about "it." The MSM is in decline and very powerful. It's irrelevant, and it dominates. It's illegitimate but it still legitimates. It's been "proven" biased but here's more evidence. And on and on."
What I'd like to say is that the outrage over Katrina had the MSM boring down on and being outraged by Dem Nagin, and on Dem Blanco, and on Rep Bush -- but I can't. They only seemed outraged by Bush.
Facts: NO had a plan, didn't follow it. LA had a plan, didn't follow it. FEMA's plan assumed that the locals had plans they were following -- bad assumption. The FEMA plan was not "robust". Brown should go.
Blanco should go.
Nagin should go -- even if he WAS being good against corruption.
Jay, I'd love to see you defend this (false?) statement about the MSM:
"The MSM attacks Democrats relentlessly and tries to hound them out of office."
I do NOT think any MSM-bashers are saying this. But they, we, I, do say it about MSM and Bush, Rumsfeld, and Brown. (And I agreed on booting Brown). Of course, if you add Rush as MSM, perhaps ...
I want a passionate MSM for the truth, against Bush AND against Kerry, against Reps AND against Dems. Against America's mistakes AND against those of the UN, the French, the Russians, the Chinese; of Amnesty, the Church, and the 1977 Save the Wetlands lawsuit which stopped construction of hurricane resistant barriers in NO. (see here)
In the meantime, I'll be watching more blogs who are honestly against junk, including those against MSM bias.
Tom Grey evidently ranks me with the Bush haters because I have taken a very long and careful review of Bush's National Guard record and at the issue of attendance and the requirements for attendance and concluded that George Bush failed to follow the rules so spectacularly that it is fair game to say he deserted.
In other words, if you hold an opinion contrary to what the Republican Party Line is (today), it can only be because one is consumed by irrational hate.
People who believed that global warming was serious problem and that George Bush's abrogration of a campaign promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions contributed to that problems only did so because they hated him.
People who warned that George Bush's tax cuts would lead to massive deficits only did so because they hated him.
People who warned that the evidence of WMD in Iraq was slender at best, and that invading Iraq would turn into a mess did so only because they hated him. George Bush's father, for example, clearly hated him, as did -- all hate, hate, hate.
The reality of course is that no one cares where Bush was "every day." We care where he was on days *when required drills were scheduled.* And it's not simply that we can't find evidence for his presence. It's that the evidence for his absence is a whole lot better.
If it requires hatred to simply ask that people who attain high position not be deserters, alcoholics, people who withhold evidence about DWIs, and so on, then I suppose every employer in America just hates people.
Or else, perhaps Mr. Grey has swallowed the Party line.
Which hypothesis is better supported by the facts at hand?
I have critiqued Prof. Rosen's piece from the standpoint of whether it is, itself, good journalism.
The basic issues are these:
1. In formally criticizing journalism that is deficient or erroneous, is there not an ethical responsibility to mention mitigating circumstances? Among these mitigating circumstances are:
(a) Carr's statement that she typed memos very similar to the CBS memos,
(b) authenticated documents are consistent with the Killian memos,
(c) genuine typographic experts (as opposed to people who play them on the Internet) disagree, with some very good people arguing that the typography was consistent with what was available at the time,
(d) Mary Mapes's assertion that the story was rushed into broadcast because of commercial pressures, that the journalists wanted to do the necessary due diligence
(e) the sheer pyrotechnic lunacy of sites like Wizbang, which might lead a harried journalist to prematurely dismiss a challenge.
Mitigating does not equal excusing. It means keeping perspective. One of the tactics used by the right in its assault against reason is to deprive any situation of perspective. People who take food because they are starving are "looters." People who are ill and old and poor and unable to travel away from the site of a disaster are too stupid to deserve any consideration. Journalists who are under intense commercial pressure to put out stories with lots of flash are acting out of venal political motives.
(2) The ethical burden on a professor of journalism to concede that it is his own students in the larger world of journalism that he is bringing the hammer down on (not to mention his own professional organizations that have responded so limply to declining standards).
I am of course not saying that the 60 Minutes team studied under Rosen. I am saying that accepting one's own role in creating a mess is part of the ethical burden one should take on when one attempts a piece like this.
What 60 Minutes did-- rush into print without checking facts-- has been repeated again and again elsewhere. Departments of journalism are fleeing with great speed from accepting responsibility for what their students do. But look at the mess at The Daily Egyptian-- for which I don't think any faculty member has accepted the slightest responsibility-- and one gets a clear sense that this starts in the classroom.
(3) There seems to be an example of indirect sourcing in the article of the kind that journalists know is inappropriate. Sure, everyone does this from time to time. The original is behind a subscription wall or whatever. But when one is writing a piece about the ethics of not checking sources, using a secondary source teaches almost exactly the opposite lesson.
Jay, actually I don't know the rules. I followed a link here from elsewhere. Is it just the first paragraph that is so offensive or is it the whole thing?
I admit to having a little fun writing it, and it may be a little over the top, but there are semi-serious points made within.
One of the things that is so frustrating with many political arguments is that often there are positions that seem so clear that one simply can't imagine principled opposition.
Your own initial post points out the incredible behavior of CBS as the story collapsed and wonders why. If you simply drop the idea that CBS was truly interested in the truth, the mystery of their behavior completely disappears.
Burkett is alledged to have offered the same documents to all of the large media outlets and they all passed on them. I don't have a link, but my recollection is that a few of these outlets admitted that the reason they passed was that the "story" was so obviously fake.
You didn't mention it, but one of the most telling points against the whole CBS truth teller theory was that a condition of Burkett giving the fake documents to CBS was that CBS put Burkett in touch with someone high up in the Kerry campaign. And CBS DID IT!
And my recollection was that Kerry was out on the stump really pushing the National Guard story in the run-up to the CBS story in what looked very much like coordination with CBS.
This behavior was so egregious that there was talk at the time of legal consequences. In the same way your lawyer recommends you admit to nothing at the scene of a traffic accident, you can imagine that CBS might be very reticent to make certain admissions until the legal issues were fully resolved. I unfortunately do not remember the legal theories involved, and I recall that even some conservative legal opinion was that CBS had nothing to worry about, but lawyers are still lawyers and, as a general rule, they are nothing if not cautious.
Plus there was the little matter of Dan Rather's reputation. Which was a silly thing to worry about really since it is largely gone anyway and at such a huge cost to the network. I haven't looked at their ratings, but I cannot imagine but that they have been heavily impacted. From my own acquaintance, I know of more than one person that was so offended by CBS in this matter that they will not even watch football on that network. If your business model requires a large audience, it seems foolish to needlessly alienate just over half of it.
Do you really, in your heart of hearts believe that CBS wasn't actively trying to get Kerry elected with this story?
According to the Thornburgh report, ami, Knox said she typed all of Killian's documents, that she had not typed these and therefore they were not the real thing, but she had seen similar documents before and she believed the contents reflected Killian's views.
Knox claimed she typed all of Killian's official documents, Jay. The "killian memos" were not, and has never been represented as "official" government documents. Instead, they were reported as being from Killian's private files. (She also claimed to have typed some "private" memos as well, but was certainly not in a position to state that Killian did not have another "stash". Given the highly sensitive nature of the "memos" it is not unlikely that Killian would have kept them off-base.)
Anyone with military experience will tell you that military personnel are urged to keep their own set of records, in case the military bureaucracy screwed things up. (This would include "cya" memos to file, which these memos were purported to be.) Given the kind of person that Killian is reported to have been, and the nature of his job (squadron commander for the 111th FIS, whose primary duties were the training of fighter pilots---a fairly dangerous sounding job, and one that would leave his family at the mercy of the Air Force bureaucracy should he have had a fatal training accident) it is virtually inconceivable that Killian did not keep his own set of records.
I would also suggest that you not rely upon the Thornburgh-Boccardi report, which contain numerous factual errors. (For instance, T/B claimed that there were no "proportionate spaced Texas Air National Guard records from that era --- but the AP's FOIA lawsuit resulted in the release of one such document from February 1971, i.e. a year before the supposed "impossible to create" on a typewriter documents were dated (see page 6 of http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/bush_records/24sep04release.pdf). Numerous other factual errors are detailed at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/1/10/183312/357 )
My view throughout the controversy has been that CBS would not have done the story unless it had the documents, and thought that they were real. Every bit of evidence suggesting that they were not real undermined the story.
actually, according to the Thornburgh - Boccardi report (not that its reliable) Mapes had been working on the Barnes angle of the story, and when the "killian memos", added that to the story.
More importantly, all of the "evidence" that the memos are not genuine is pretty nonsensical. Dr. David Hailey's research on the memos establishes pretty clearly that the memos were typewritten --- the rebuttal to Hailey's claims is that the evidence he cites is based on the fact that the documents were "reproduced" so many times. Unfortunately, that particular argument also destroys the "technical" arguments for the "forged documents" advocates --- if reproduction can distort the image sufficiently to discredit Hailey's evidence, its impossible to discuss issues like "character spacing" and "pseudo-kerning" as well. The failure to conform to official military formats is a red-herring, because these were not official military documents. (indeed, if "failure to conform" was determinative, there are documents released by the Bush administration that would be considered "fake" -- see http://www.glcq.com/trans.htm for a discussion of the anomolies that occurred in the documents concerning Bush's "transfer request".)
In fact, there is no really good reason not to consider the "Killian memos" authentic. The failure to properly determine the "chain of custody" prior to using them --- and then subsequently finding out that their source for the memos had lied about their origins, was the only reason CBS retracted the story. CBS rushed the story because of competitive pressure -- they knew that USA Today also had copies of the memos, and was working on the story --- and that they were in danger of losing their scoop.
But the Thornburgh-Bocardi Commission, for one, had serious "trouble" with both of those statements
Which is why so many people viewed it as a corporate whitewash.
I mean, cmon. If the documents could possibly have been authenticated, there was no need for the Thornburgh-Bocardi commission, all of those CBS news execs would still be spinning the news, and Kerry would have been President.
Here's wikipedia again talking about the Thornburgh report:
The panel did not undertake a thorough examination of the authenticity of the Killian documents, but consulted Peter Tytell, a New York City-based forensic document examiner and typewriter and typography expert who analyzed the typeface of the documents. Tytell concluded that the documents were not produced on a typewriter in the early 1970s but were produced on a computer in a Times New Roman typestyle that would not have been available at that time.
The panel found Tytell's analysis to be sound, but did not reach a conclusion on whether his analysis was correct overall.
As I understand this:
1. Tytell stated definitively that the documents were fakes.
2. The panel believes Tytell's analysis to be sound.
3. The panel refuses to conclude that the documents are fakes.
There is a word for this: whitewash.
There just isn't any leg to stand on with respect to the documents. They were faked. Period. Time to move on.
That doesn't mean that Bush dotted every i and crossed every t in "completing" his national guard service. As I understand it, there just isn't enough evidence to prove it either way. People are pretty much free to believe what they want to believe on this issue as far as the actual evidence goes.
But, here's the thing. Even if true, it makes no difference to almost all of Bush's supporters. The story on Bush is that as a youth he was a screw-up. This has been vetted already. Most of us understand that he was a little wild as a young man and that as an adult he made a decision to get serious, and that's the guy we're dealing with.
And the chicken hawk angle doesn't really matter that much to most of us either. Viet Nam was a complicated affair. Even conservatives have mixed feelings about it. And, besides, anyone that knows anything about fighter planes knows that this is not an activity for cowards.
You want to rattle us about Bush, then prove to us he's started drinking again. Or that he's taking cash payments from South American drug lords to keep the borders open. That'll get our attention.
This ANG story only meant something to you guys.
Tying back into Jay's points: Like him, I had an interest in Bush's Guard background. But it became obvious that any reporting from the MSM would be distorted - weasel words without facts designed to leave an unfavorable impression, censorship by ommision in not contacting sources who could verify Bush's claims, etc. The MSM, with their history/pattern of bias and their zeal to get Bush, has effectively immunized Bush from all criticism.
I've been an avid news consumer since Dessert Shield [back when CNN was an honest broker]. Like others on this thread, I have continually given the MSM the benefit of the doubt when they got the facts wrong. But across the last 15 years, this has become a pattern that disturbed me enough to seek out alternative sources of information. Like so many others, the internet confirmed my suspiscions that I was being spoonfed propaganda and embarrassed me. Just one example:
Max Cleland. The MSM grants him moral authority by introducing him as "a vietnam hero who left 3 limbs on the battlefield". Those sound like weasel-words to me, so I go to the internet to discover Cleland's own account of events: while hopping off a helo on his way to the O-club, he noticed a grenade had slipped from a fellow soldier's gear. Cleland, unaware that it was live, reached down to retrieve it [its not like he dived on it to protect others] and BOOM! Tragic yes, bit hardly heroic. And I had to do my own research on the internet to get the truth behind the MSM version.
Thats just one of hundreds of examples. The bottom line is I quit trusting the MSM several years ago. I no longer tune into ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/NYT because they have a history and pattern of wasting my time with distortions and half-truths that dovetail with their agenda. I would love to have a media that presented both sides of an issue, but the MSM in its arrogance will never wake up. Like Ami and others here, they are arrogant and blind to their bias. I no longer give the MSM any benefit of doubt, I automatically assume they are liars and start from that point as a news consumer. When I hunger for information, I am stuck with FOX's right-wing tilt, Wapo's more subtle leftism, and the blogosphere. And left with nothing but contempt for those who call themselves "journalists".
I fear Jay's endevours are wasted, his points fall on deaf ears. There will be no change or accountability, no lessons learned, because the MSM has become blind, deaf, and stupid. I don't need the MSM - no news is better than corrupted news.
First of all, thanks for the Open Letter to CBS News that we posted on Friday. I was proud to have it on Public Eye and it helped get us off to a frisky start.
I say that event though you essentially called me a liar in your piece; I gave an account of Public Eye came to be and you said "sounds like a party line to me." First of all you're wrong, my history was accurate. More importantly, as a guardian of standards, did you even have a glimmer of evidence of or reporting that I was being dishonest -- or did it just "sound" that way to you? Obviously, I knew as I wrote that piece that many readers would dismiss it as corporate propaganda, as I noted in the piece itself. Anyway, small point.
I also thought you were gratuitously snarky on the ducks piece, nasty about the senior producer who talked about it without articulating any actual argument as to why she deserved your personal and condescending scorn.
But those are minor points and perhaps I should have responded on Public Eye, but we had a lot of business to get through during launch week (and for the record, though I do post on Public Eye, I am not an official Eyeballer; I am the editor who has Public Eye in my portfolio). It was good to run your piece and that's the bottom line.
Other points: the vitriol with which people complain about tech problems stuns me, frankly. Even this comment, I'm sure, will generate more comments that I and CBS "just don't get it." Inevitable?
One thing that really struck me in the responses here is a comment by Billy Hollis above: "The biggest word missing from this essay is "humility". It's not enough to say that others know more than mainstream journalists - at some level they realize that. What mainstream journalists have to achieve in their own minds is the humility to actually listen to others who know more when those journalists don't like what they are hearing."
I think the comment applies to your essay only slightly, but it fits many of the comments Publc Eye has received, and blogs about it elsewhere. I know there is no such thing as "the blog community", but thre is a level of smugness, self-importance, sanctimony and intolerance-disguised as openness that confuses me. It's like, "Blog my way and communicate my way or you are an idiot." Sometimes, thatis just a variant of,"Agree with me or you're an idiot" or as is the linguisitc morn now, "Agree with me or you'r biased."
Well, Public Eye is not just a blog; it is a really new invention, nothing like it exists. We've been open about learning as we go and we've been open wanting to hear about our shortcomings in format, mechanics and substance. 80 percent of the time, that ain't good enough. But the othe 20 percent has been fantastically satisfying. So I hope the percentage changes. Demonstrating good faith takes time and we accept that.
/revise & extend
David: He feels that he was insufficiently informed about how Max Cleland
Its not that I was "insufficiently informed" by the MSM, its that I was deliberately misled - for propaganda purposes that aided the Kerry campaign. Cleland the "war hero" on the campaign trail lent Kerry credibility as a potential CINC. I seem to recall Malkin or Coulter falling into this trap on Hardball - Chris repeated the MSM distortion of Cleland's war record in a false appeal to authority & sympathy, and translate that heroism to Kerry via Cleland's support. Malkin/Coulter correct the record, Mathews distorts her comments and she spends the next 5 minutes protesting that she never said his wounds were "self-inflicted." Criticism gagged & deflected.
Flip it around: if Cleland was a Republican and had come out in support of Bush. The MSM attack almost writes itself:
[Bob]: Tom, bring us up to date on the campaign trail. We're hearing reports that some think Cleland is a bad choice as a Bush spokesperson.
[Tom]: Thats right Bob. There's a growing perception in political cirlces that Cleland, in presenting his creditionals as a war hero, has allowed his war record to be distorted and -
[Bob]: Now hold on there. We know his wounds were accidental, he blew himself up, but Cleland himself has never -
[Tom]: Yes Bob, while Cleland has never lied about it himself, he has allowed others to exagerate in his presence before the media without correcting them.
[Bob]: Isn't that the same thing?
[Tom]: Maybe so Bob. But what's more interesting is - and I don't mean to be cruel - what's more interesting is the question raised in some political circles as to whether this creates an unfavorable metaphor for the Bush team.
[Bob]: How do you mean?
[Tom]: As you well know, Bush has a history of gaffes and mistakes on the campaign trail - and having a spokesperon who mishandles grenades might remind the public of Bush's clumsy and seemingly incompetent remarks re foriegn policy.
...you get the drift. If Cleland is on the Bush team, the MSM would attempt to attach Cleland's misadventures to Bush, reinforcing a message to the public that Bush can't be trusted to even handle grenades, much less the POTUS nuclear football. Cleland himself is marginalized, become a joke on Letterman and SNL skits, and is rendered ineffective as a spokesperson on the campaign trail.
If Cleland is on the Kerry team, the MSM paints him as a war hero beyond reproach. He is effectively out-of-bounds for those who would counter his message. Cleland gets a free pass to say whatever he wants, and any who would scrutinize his words are demonized for "picking on a cripple who lost 3 limbs on the battlefield in Nam" [with the hanging assumption that it was in battle with the enemy].
So yes, David, it matters b/c it shows just how much influence the MSM has when setting the table for public discourse. They take sides in ways that doesn't show up on the public's radar. And they do it deliberately.
I think it's fascinating that they were certain their commentators had nothing to say that was valuable enough to take up more than 500 words. Also, they assume the arguments would be so simplistic that they wouldn't need more than 500 words. And the 24 hours -- that's just ridiculous. If I'm away from my office for a day, then I can't have a comment? Gee, that's a great way to get people involved.
They fear us. Those folks at CBS fear what we might say. They see our actions in the ratings, as the total network viewership slides. But those are big huge numbers and they can erode for a while yet before it really hits the fan.
But us, the great unwashed us, with our gaudy and strident opinions, who might not need to be uplifted by ducks. What about us? Clearly, there is wariness.
I think Ververs wants to listen. I think Dick Meyers is watching the Public Eye with a kind of profit and loss view (Man, if this thing doesn't start to crank out some decent comments, let's dump it and get a new camera....).
This is such a great opportunity for them, I can't begin to say. I've been a journalist, and I know uyou have limited time to get pictures, story. You chop that up into a produceable feature, televised or printed. But hundreds of people don't get interviewed, or photographed who could have been, so every news story is actually an observation of the world through a gunslit--a tiny slice of all the things that were happening in and around the event, story of the moment.
The weblog allows for extension, addition, correction, alteration, and debate about the gunslit-sized view that CBS (and all media) put out. It will enhance, even if people disagree.
Why do they fear that? I don't know.
Whew. I can't believe I read the whole thing.
" I know there is no such thing as "the blog community", but thre is a level of smugness, self-importance, sanctimony and intolerance-disguised as openness that confuses me. "
Actually, if you know there's no such thing as 'the blog community' then you're a step ahead of most bloggers, who define it as "the little corner I know of". You're absolutely right about the tone, though.
On comments--I don't think the Public Eye should allow comments at all. If they want to encourage feedback, they should consider forums or other discussion mechanisms.
Someone mentioned earlier that Public Eye should listen to "experts" like Jay or Jeff Jarvis on comments. With all respect to Jay (who I read and enjoy), he's not an expert at managing online discourse. While his blog is influential, I don't see any evidence that his blog is high traffic. I can't find his blog anywhere in the top 200 at Truth Laid Bear (for traffic), and for a *blog* owner to be considered an expert on online discourse, he'd have to be at the dailykos level or close. No blogger short of Kos has the traffic to warrant the designation of expert. Little Green Footballs, maybe. So unless I missed Pressthink up there in the top 10 or 20 traffic blogs, he's not anywhere near the level of activity to rank as an expert.
The reason he has a relatively good comments section is because he's got a small posting community of high quality, low-conflict readers. Don't confuse audience with management.
The Public Eye will have a huge readership and, if they allow comments, will attract lots of nutjobs--the above conversation to an order of 500. Jay's relatively simple task of maintaining order here does not qualify him to advise TPE on its eventual problems of doing same. Size does matter.
There's a reason why most messsage boards are closed, and a reason why almost every high traffic blogger closes comments (dailyKos is more of a discussion board).
Steve: "let's do a hypothetical here: If a person observes that five of the top eight FEMA officials had no experience in either emergency management or disaster response, but were instead political hacks and cronies deposited on the federal payroll -- your tax dollars at work, by the way -- then, that makes that person a "Bush-hater" ? Or maybe -- just maybe -- that makes that person "one pissed-off taxpayer" ??"
I do NOT care, much, about how many hacks at FEMA, unless they FAIL to do their job. Brown did a pretty good as "waiter" -- waiting for orders from the Governor. When Gov. Haley, in Miss. (worse hit), asked for specific stuff, he got good FEMA response.
Brown, and FEMA, failed to pick up the slack when Dem Mayor of N.O. failed to do his job, AND when Dem Gov. of LA failed to do her job. And all three of them, on Mon. night after Katrina had passed, seemed relieved and NOT talking about the risk of the levees breaking. (See Malkin's transcript of the press meeting).
Austin Bay has a good post about the duty of FEMA -- to provide the specific support the locals ask for. Within some 72-96 hour timeframe. FEMA did better on Katrina than in many other big hurricanes. Whether because of political hacks or despite that.
FEMA was never set up to recover from mismanaged local authority.
Charles says about my post, without quoting me, "In other words, if you hold an opinion contrary to what the Republican Party Line is (today), it can only be because one is consumed by irrational hate."
This is the usual Leftist misquote/twist into a strawman, and then attack the strawman. Jonathan Chait admitted, a year ago, that he hated Bush, and why he hated Bush. So I wrote up Bush hate, Jew hate, Success hate.
Leftists seem full of these hates.
I hate the bias I see, often in ommission, in the Lamestream media.
I hate the fact that the Leftist policy of "US OUT NOW" was followed in Vietnam, and the result of Leftist policy was genocide.
I now think the MSM bias against Bush helps keep Bush in the "underdog" position, being "unjustly" persecuted by the MSM attack dogs. Since nobody can fire the MSM, the only thing to do is vote Rep (against MSM bias).
And stop watching MSM -- meaning advertisers pay less, the CBS brand is less valuable, so NOW there's a reason (from ON HIGH) to "do something" to stop the downward trend. Public Eye will not be the first MSM blog.
Will it push CBS to hire a pro-Iraq Liberation, pro-tax cuts, pro-life powerful ( pro-Bush) editor? Prolly not yet. But possibly.
(apologies to Jay)
AF said he shouldn't get points for flying when he wasn't flying. Fine. Did he get the points anyway?
Bush wasn't credited with "flying", he was credited with training as an F102 pilot, when he wasn't accomplishing any of the training mandated for F102 pilots. The State of Texas was paid by the US government to maintain the readiness of 111th FIS --- which meant that all of the officers it had assigned to pilot spots actually were training as pilots. (The Air Force said that if he wasn't going to be training as a pilot, he should have been reassigned (given another job). ) You didn't get points for "attendance", the points you got were for accomplishing the "training" regimem mandated by the Air Force.
Regarding the Alabama training: Did the delay in getting the required form back to Texas indicate anything other than that there was a delay? In other words, delayed notification of training completed is not the same as indicating the training was not completed.
There was no reason for the delay, if the training was properly authorized. Basically, there was a Form 40A that had to be filled out before Bush showed up in Alabama by the Alabama unit which would have been given to the officer supervising Bush's training by the company clerk of the training unit. All the supervising officer had to do was sign Bush in and out, and hand it in to company clerk, who would put it in the mail within 48 hours. And since Bush's own unit had to authorize the creation of the Form 40A by the training unit, they would have been expecting one back within days of the authorized training.
(That is just the "documentary" evidence. The anecdotal evidence, specifically the recollections of people at the Alabama unit who would have been involved in authorizing and processing Bush's training, make it pretty obvious that even if Bush had shown up in Alabama on the dates specified in the payroll reports, it was not authorized per Air Force requirements.)
And even on active duty, we could get exceptions for everything. We got waivers on small arms qualification because the civilians near the range complained about the noise. So training falling outside the parameters means he got an exception. This may be preferential treatment, but you'd have to show nobody else getting it. That he did the training outside the parameters shows he did the training.
there is absolutely no evidence that suggest that Bush received an official "exception" to the training regimen required of pilots. Because those requirements were established by the Air Force, "waivers" would have to be authorized (or "indorsed") at some point by the Air Force itself. But the evidence in the documents makes it clear that no such waiver was ever provided by Bush --- the Air Force made it clear that as long as Bush was designated as an F102 pilot, he was expected to train as an F102 pilot.
Mr. Aubrey, the document SAY that Bush received pay and points to which he was not entitled. The documentary evidence shows that the Air Force agreed that Bush failed to fulfill his training requirements --- so your argument consists of NOTHING more than conjecture that is directly contradicted by the documentary evidence itself.
Furthermore, you attempt to frame the issue in terms of Bush (and Bush alone) recieving "special treatment" is a red herring. (Its like saying that we should have no problem with Kojo Annan taking payoffs from Iraq in the Oil for Food scandal because lots of people were getting paid off. ( Bush's requirements were established in Federal statutes and regulations, and US Air Force policies and procedures. It doesn't matter in the slightest the degree to which Texas Air National Guard officers failed to enforce those requirements for others. The only issue is whether Bush fulfilled what was required of HIM by US Law and Air Force policy derived from that law.
Dave. You're almost right.
van Steenwyck showed how Pitts' anecdote didn't prove squat. The plural of anecdote, as has been said, is not data, much as Pitts wished it were.
The unfortunate folks in NO suffered from a combination of factors, the least of which was the activity of FEMA. As you know, the locals are told to take care of their own business for two to three days. NOLA didn't do that. FEMA is a coordinator and is supposed to write checks after the event.
By the end of two to three days, a huge number of federal resources ("It was like flying into a hornet's nest," said one helicopter pilot of the chopper traffic over the city)were deployed. All the choppers that would fit and not run into each other were working.
It is also true that the locals were in charge of the dome and center fiascos. It was the LA officials who refused to let the Red Cross and Salvation Army in. They may have had legitimate security concerns--a colleague just reported a conversation with a client who went into NO recently with some Blackwater guys for security and ended up in a fight which killed six people. Probably a rumor, but perhaps the LA folks had an idea. Nevertheless, it was not FEMA's idea.
It was NOLA's failings that left people standing up to their necks in water. Getting them out was never supposed to be FEMA's job. Various military and civilian helicopters did stupendous work, and whether FEMA was coordinating them or not is hardly the issue.
Resources were forward deployed, as one would hope.
The problem is that hurricanes don't just go poof when they cross the coastline. Katrina was a Cat 2 for at least another day, ruining roads and bridges far inland, delaying anybody's movement.
And, when all is said and done, FEMA's performance is about what it has been in the past.
ami. As I see your argument, you can't figure out how Bush got all his points, given what you have on paper. He got in a fair amount of operational flying, which ordinarily you don't let a guy do who isn't current in the aircraft. Since you can't figure out how it happened, it must be nefarious.
One of my points is, anybody, including Private Jones who guards the parking lot, could get waivers and exceptions. The Reserves were desperate to keep up their numbers with people who were past their initial obligation and they took great care to be accomodating.
One unit I heard about had all its officers get official letters of reprimand because they couldn't keep their numbers up. They decided to make the drills as easy as possible, giving rise to several long-running bridge tournaments, and using the pencil to accomplish what is ordinarily managed by sweat and exertion. I gather you had to show up, but everybody got promoted as fast as regs would allow, with waivers for practically anything that would prevent even Lt. Sonny Fuzz from being promoted early as if he were the next Pershing.
In this atmosphere--and you had to be there to appreciate it--anything could happen. One of my friends told me about a colleague who couldn't account for a generator. So he tore the page out of the Property Book and the CMMI didn't notice.
Bush got his flight hours in, which, multiplying his hours times the likelihood of dying in the F102, put him at approximately the same risk as somebody going to Viet Nam.
Paperwork gaps prove nothing. I should modify that and say that the current regime is probably pretty tightly run. I wouldn't know. Then....F Troop.
Go hate the media somewhere else, please. You really should. You're not doing any good here, joylessly repeating the same thing post after post after post. What could you possibly get out of driving your nail into that wall, prying it out and driving it in again, over and over? MSM is biased, MSM is hostile to conservatives, MSM hates Bush, MSM is cluelessly liberal. Whom are you even talking to? Do you imagine there is someone somewhere within reach of this weblog who doesn't know you feel this way?
No, but I also don't imagine there is anyone in the media, knowing these things, that gives a rats ass either. You seem consistently troubled by the cacophony of the complainers yet singularly unmoved by the obdurate refusal to admit to any problem at all on the part of the journalists in the crowd. (Watch them rise con una voce
to protest that I am wrong.)
My question to you is, what is the purpose of your comment section? Because, although the conversation in the comment section is stupifyingly repetitive, you seem not to get the fact that there are two sides in this stupifaction and neither side is willing to budge an inch. You simply keep asking one side to shut up and go away.
Why is that I wonder?
Then you write
I think there's a clear difference between McDonald's, which we can recognize as "only" interested in selling burgers, and, say, the Dallas Morning News, which breaks its contact with us if it's "only" selling papers. The difference is McDonald's doesn't claim to tell us the truth about our communities and our common life.
And therein lies the problem, for both businesses really sell trust. McDonalds does quite well at it, certainly better than the media. Perhaps it's because they understand that they can advertise good hamburgers and fries all day and all night, but unless they deliver a good product, their business will suffer.
Journalists, on the other hand, want us to believe they are unbiased purveyors of the truth concerned only with "the public good" (as if they are singularly qualified to know what that is) while feeding us flawed stories with made up "facts", anonymous, unverifiable sources and emotionally loaded rhetoric that pushes a point of view, rushed into publication so they can be "first with the news". The product doesn't live up to the hype (all the news that's fit to print, fair and balanced, a source you can trust!)
Yet the media continues to sit in stunned silence, utterly amazed that their customers keep leaving for other vendors, mindlessly repeating the same mistakes because - well - they simply aren't what their customers are telling them they are.
And you keep complaining that the customers should shut up and go away. Seems odd behavior for a blog that purports to want a dialogue.
Jay, I thought you wanted ME, especially, to hate media bias somewhere else; I'm sure I'm among the ones causing you grief.
Hugh Hewitt has the transcript for the Don't Get Stuck on Stupid conference.
I imagine that you might feel that way about me, I'm Stuck on Stupid, and genocide, and media bias as an enabler of genocide. (shift truck into reverse, where's that duck? I don't care if I'm just flattening a flat duck -- there are some who say "it's not flat yet". "It wants to float away.") (Artless and boring, too.)
I want the "noble" media to BE noble. Noble attack dogs, telling people the TRUTH -- about Iraq, and the hard choice between difficult democracy and death squad gov't. About N. Ireland, where Catholic-oriented IRA murderers can walk around and intimidate relatives of their murdered victim (McCartney sisters). About the corrupt UN, its failures, its child-raping peacekeepers, its "no genocide" in Darfur.
If the truth seeking reporters reported more truth in Darfur, more in Iraq, more in N. Ireland (the truth about death squad intimidation in a community), I think more folk would support Bush. More folk would understand that ANY alternative policy has costs.
Jay, so far YOUR blog is the best I've found for discussing the important questions; YOU ask the important questions. You get kudos, and my (unwanted?) eyeball attention plus my duck-flattening repeat comments (I know they're boring, I'm trying to practice humor) -- because I'm convinced the ANSWERS to your questions are related to the perspective I keep bringing up. On the issue YOU, alone in the Web that I've found, have brought up:
What is a Reporters role?
1) "Objective" non-biased "truth", as non-involved as possible (3rd person narrative of First Draft of History)
2) A passionate advocate for change, thru pointing out the truth of reality without that change. Here the outraged reporter becomes part of the story.
These two roles, obviously and inevitably, are in conflict.
(flatten the duck again! Vietnam/ Nixon/ Killing Fields; did media support genocide?)
Finally, to Steve's issue:
"Will it push CBS to hire a pro-Iraq Liberation, pro-tax cuts, pro-life powerful ( pro-Bush) editor?" --Tom Grey
Let's hope not. The day that CBS, or any news outlet, starts hiring editors based on their politics is the day that news becomes spin.
I claim the news NOW is spin; and they need counter-spin, or anti-spin. I doubt, Steve, that you're willing to jettison Affirmative Action for blacks, while I am -- as violating ML King's dream (judge on character).
Captain Ed, Michelle Malkin, the Powerline trio; any and all of these folks as editors at NY-DC-LA papers would likely reduce the spin from the media. The fig-leaf used to defend AA is "diversity", and there is certainly some truth to the idea that in College, a more diverse student body helps all who attend. In competing for limited "spots", I prefer a pure meritocracy.
For news, where broad coverage is an explicit goal, they should choose folks who can write well, first. (Guess I won't be waiting for any calls from MSM!) But on top of that, if there are 5 of 5 editors already against Bush, it would be good to have the 6th editor explicitly in favor of Bush, to check the excesses of unseen spin by the others.
This is certainly on-topic -- Public Eye. PE should, too, get some explicitly pro-CBS, pro-Bush folk to be involved in checking CBS. And improve its ratings.
How many media-haters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Lightbulb? Screw the lightbulb, I want to flatten a duck. Again. And again. ad infinitum.
I'm with Jay--the bias duck has been run over. Yeah, we've got it. I know there is bias in media at some level, partly because there is self-selection on the part of people who enter the profession.
Journalists are, like teachers and social workers and nurses, people who want to do good. They want to make the world a better place. The big difference between journalists and these other professionals is the mechanism for doing so.
Nurses, for example, have a clear set of practices that lead to doing good. The work, using proven medical practices and personal warmth, to improve the health of citizens. They are trained in the technical practice of the work, and they understand why each practice must be executed properly in order to work, and they know exactly what "executed properly" means.
Journalists want to do good, but where do they learn what that means? Do journalism schools teach them how to spot bias on their own stories and remove it in order to prevent a "better" story? Can journalists identify and define what they think their role is in "doing good" and then link the professional practice to that?
Or maybe the big problem is that journalists are not like nurses, and their role is not to do good. Maybe if that piece disappeared, and journalists saw their role as simply to report what is going on it would be better. Imagine news reports without any inflection or perspective on what is better or worse for people. What about cable news without all the personal asides from reporters and anchors?
I spent an evening this past week eating dinner with six professionally trained chefs, top in the nation, and listening them debate their role, their goals, and whether their work was art or technique. It was fascinating, and it reminded my of the problems facing journalists (and educators). Except the chefs cooked great food, and no one argued with that.
I want to answer a couple of things from above:
Steve, for the record, I'm much cheaper than Altman, at least as knowledgeable in my subject area, and I'll bet I'm more fun at parties. But the Times, nor any other paper would ever hire me. Why? Because they look first for journalism experience, and second for content knowledge.
For David and Steve, more about the chefs. One of their complaints was that people don't understand or appreciate the true cost of preparing a GREAT restaurant meal. We're talking high-end. They say Americans are conditioned to think food is cheap, and don't see any difference between food and a great meal. In other words, they're making some of the same arguments here, that great journalism costs money, requires resources, etc.
what I thought about, though, is that restaurant food and news have become commodities. You can get them at lots of places, at varying prices, of varying quality. You can, with food, make it yourself using the amazing number of ingredients available these days.
That comparison, food and news as commodities, explains for me why the economics of restaurants and news outlets are faltering. If people don't value the extras brought to the product by the big news outlet, they won't pay.
It used to be that reporters brought objectivity. But I think news organizations squandered that resource, if they ever had it, not intentionally but through lack of attention. They can't go back. Now what?
Not so fast.
You make "Hackworth" (and the other luminaries) into a plural, as if there are more than one of him. Actually, there's not even one of him any more, but you see my point.
Hack did a kind of reporting, the kind you'd expect from somebody who thought he should have been promoted at least one more time before being passed over.
There was a book called "Soldier!" by an ex-Ranger named Tony--something, I can't remember--who did almost exactly the same thing except he wasn't quite as outrageous as Hackworth and so didn't get the journos' attention. I spent some time in a hospital with an old friend of his and came to the conclusion he was annoyed at having been passed over. Twice passed over for promotion and you're out, or you can take an enlisted rank. I saw a major turn into a staff sergeant once. Not pretty.
To the larger point. There are not many of these folks and, as Hackworth was, they are not simple reporters, coming closer to investigative columnists, if there is such a category.
And it isn't necessary to have been a retired light colonel to be sufficiently educated in military affairs to be able to not make hugeous blunders.
Dan Rather, who for various reasons was pretty sound on the troops, had a story when Kuwait was liberated in 1991. Two young reporters said to him, "We thought only losers joined the Army." Rather was standing in the middle of the end of a masterpiece of military action, which showed everthing from courage to planning excellence to training to professionalism. How on earth did they get to be so stupid? Was the normal ration of smart extracted from them in j-school? Being so stupid, how did they stay so stupid? Being so stupid, how'd they get assigned to cover a war? Two possibilities. One is that the editor was similarly stupid, or the other was that the editor wasn't, but wanted stupid reporters in the Gulf on his employer's credit card...for some reason we journalism-mistrusters can think about.
During some hearings after the war, Walter Cronkite was asked if there was any excuse for all the pre-war doomsaying about how our stuff wouldn't work, wouldn't shoot, wouldn't fly, wouldn't roll, wouldn't communicate, troops were soft and ill-trained, when it all worked pretty damned well. Cronkite said stoutly that he thought the reporting before the war was just fine, with the air of a man telling you he knew exactly what you were saying but would be burned on a griddle before he'd admit it.
Anyway, the point is not that Hackworth(s) are the minimum standard, which, having been set, means we groundlings can't expect many of them.
The point is to avoid egeregious stupidity and appalling ignorance. We'll start there.
The metaphor of the high-end, ten-star meal is faulty. In this context, that would be The Book.
Daily or weekly journalism would be the ordinary meal, prepared by somebody who has figured out how to get it all done at the same time, get the green leafies into a form even kids will choke down, and nobody gets sick. This doesn't take a Guide Michelin graduate, but it does take a bit of work to get to that level.
Yeah. That's it. Let's see if journalists can do as well reporting as the ordinary housewife does with the weekday supper.