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« CNN Does RSS | Main | Free Speech Belongs to Us All »

January 10, 2005



The big problem with the report, and I've only read parts of it so far, is that it whitewashes the political motivations behind the misbehavior. Whether Rather himself had a part in it, we'll probably never know. But Mapes (and probably others) was trying to torpedo a political candidate right before an election. If that's not political, I don't know what is.

Felicia Krippet

" ... poor journalistic practices that led the network's news division to do insufficient due diligence ... "

Er, uh, no.

Arrogance in the MSM isn't like that. It's political bias, ends-justify-the-means reporting (defeat Bush), and poor journalistic practices and insufficient due diligence by OTHER outlets, enabling the commission of outright fraud on the American people.

Maples and Rather sought the election of John Kerr, by any means necessary, including a Hail Mary with the "reputation" of CBS news. That is where it began. Fortunately it has ended in abject failure, multiple career ruin, the debasement of the CBS franchise, and an indelible stain of corruption on the Kerry campaign.

What's revolutionary about blogging and citizen journalism isn't just more due diligence, it's a higher standard, purging the Democratic Party tilt from the MSM, and bringing to light blatant media allegiences to left wing candidates.

Mark Gisleson

I guess I read a lot more LGF posts than you did Dan. CBS owes no one an apology. The flogging they got from the right was correct only in so far as CBS failed to vet their documents properly, but as CBS rightly points out, the documents have still not been proven to be forgeries. I strongly suspect they're CYA documents created in the early '80s, but this whole thing is just a political smokescreen to continue distracting the public from the fact that Bush clearly did not complete his Texas Guard duty as promised.

I have a lot more respect for CBS today than I have had in years. The report is not perfect, but it's very educational. I'd encourage bloggers with journalistic ambitions to read it carefully. The standards the panel calls for don't exist in bloggerland (or most news organizations).

Anspar Jonte

I thought the blogger reaction was the epitome of citizen journalism at its worst. Depending on who you read, the documents were obviously forged, or possibly genuine. I did find many of the arguments rather weak. The "because I can duplicate a document on my computer the memo CBS has must be fake" argument was especially ridiculous. I was unconvinced of anything except that I was observing mob mentality. But then again, corporate media often succumbs to group think too, so, oh well.

Jim Hill

As Felicia Krippet says, "Er, uh, no." Of course, I apply that to her remark. The weblogs of the right do not apply a higher standard than the mainstream media. They apply exactly the same standard, only with a rightward tilt. There was as much garbage swirling around the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign as there was around the CBS memoranda, only then the right-bloggers were going on about how the media were trying to bury the story of courageous Americans who were There In The Shit and saw John Kerry behave badly. That's a perfect example of the "just win, baby" mentality.

Herein lies the source of my dismay. The people who truly seek to report fact impartially and without opinion are being buried alive in the avalanche of shrill partisan press, either conventional or weblogged. The partisans pause from their hysterical rhetoric about the evils of the Other Guy only long enough to trumpet their own purity and the sleazy tactics of the mendacious and meretricious Other Guy's supporters.

Anspar Jonte

Before everyone jumps on me, I'll say that this Blog-Gate article by Columbia Journalism Review sums up many of problems with how the CBS memo situation was handled on both sides.


It's pretty obvious that in a pre-weblog world CBS would still be standing by its story, no?

Geneva Overholser ( here ) said it's a journalist's responsibility to "Report on one another with the same assiduousness we use on other important institutions", but papers are extremely reluctant to criticize each other ("if we do unto others, they might do unto us"), so at present blogs are really the only way to watch the watchers - in a chaotic and uneven way.

It would be nice if they weren't the only way though; I wish we had freelance ombudsmen available for rent.

But ombudsmen too seem reluctant to stick their noses where they're not wanted...

Can we come up with a structural fix? ("Newspaper culture just needs to fight harder against its own human nature" is not a structural fix)


There is no structural fix possible if journalists aren't going to live up to the responsibilities and practices that have been defined over decades. What happened with CBS was a massive failure of existing process: everyone involved bought into the story, including those whose job it was to bring a critical and skeptical eye to newsgathering. The failure here reminds me of the New York Times's failure with Jayson Blair: a desire to believe that overcomes all.


I think Atrios raises some interesting points comparing reactions to journalistic blunders in so called liberal venues vs. so called conservative venues.

What Liberal Media



The fact that CBS viewers were barely second only to those of Fox News in having completely wrong information about Iraq's "WMDs", Saddam's so-called link to Al Qaeda and on the supposed worldwide support for the Iraq war has long shown that CBS's journalistic standards are not something to be proud of [link:]

Memo-gate or Rather-gate as it is called, in my mind, is notable chiefly for the fact that CBS ignored an enourmous amount of indisputable evidence with which they could have made their Bush TXANG story and instead went after the so-called memos. Sad to say, it is a reflection of deep incompetence.

Their so-called report on Memo-gate now continues to blaze a trail of incompetence and/or mendacity. Paul Lukasiak has provided some examples already:

Felicia Krippet

"The report is being picked to pieces by anti-CBS folks"

Dan, your language displays the same political bias, and the double standard applied to blogs, as evinced by CBS and their whitewash review board in this case.

Is Dan Rather "anti-Bush" folk? You ascribe this conspiratorial fraud to a breakdown in journalistic mechanisms, wearing blinders w/r/t motivations.

Why single out right of center blogs? Kos, Marshall and others are awash with commentary on the report. Why brand some blogs "anti-CBS", rather than serious analytical efforts, applied to one of the great journalistic conspiracies of our time?

Doesn't it bother you that this conspiracy, a fraud perpetrated on the American people by journalists at the highest level of the 4th branch of government, sought to reverse the course of a presidential election?

Anspar Jonte

"conspiracy, a fraud perpetrated on the American people"

I'm still awaiting the evidence. At best, you can say the documents MIGHT have been forged.

Felicia Krippet

Anspar demonstrates clearly why the report is a whitewash. It didn't go to the heart of the matter: the clear and convincing evidence these are forgeries, the longstanding, worn-on-the-sleeve political biases of the "journalists" involved, and the nature of their contacts with the Kerry campaign during the pendency of their "investigation".

The Kerry campaign launched their ad blitz "Fortunate Son" 24 hours after the airing of the CBS piece. I suppose that was simply coincidence?

Anspar Jonte

To clarify, I'm still awaiting clear and convincing evidence from the bloggers. All I saw was a mob launching a mass of dubious and/or unverified evidence and the traditional news media licking its lips at the prospect of attacking one of its own.

Felicia Krippet

I suppose 4 firings, and Dan Rather's forced retirement, suggest that CBS thinks the documents are genuine?

Anspar, you read too much Daily Kos and Josh Marshall!


Disclaimer: I have not read the report and don't expect to get to for another several days.

That said, I think there need not be any connection between the firings/forced retirement and the authenticity, or lack thereof, of the documents. The employees could have been disciplined for failure to perform due diligence, regardless of what properly performed due diligence would have revealed.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that the documents are not authentic. There is circumstantial evidence that they could be authentic. But neither is the same thing as drop-dead proof.

And in this case, the quality of the documents might well matter less than what people did, or failed to do, with and about them.

Felicia Krippet

The idea that educated, internet saavy, well-read participants in Dan Gillmor's "dialogue" can, for even a moment, SERIOUSLY suggest that the memos may be authentic!

You are buying hook, line and sinker the "reality distortion field" of the most outrageously partisan spin doctors on the left.

Would be hilarious, if it were not utterly outrageous.

Now go buy an I-shuffle thingee.

Felicia Krippet

"There is strong circumstantial evidence that the documents are not authentic. There is circumstantial evidence that they could be authentic."

There was strong circumstantial evidence, in the form of the vast majority of available eyewitness testimony, to the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans against Kerry. A subset of the documents comprising Kerry's military record supported the Senator's version, as did just a couple of his compatriots from his unit. However, Kerry's refusal to release his entire military record, as did Bush, was also strong circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing by the Senator.

By your standard, the major networks and MSM outlets should have been all over the Swift Boat Veterans story. Instead, Fox and the New York Post stood virtually alone.

Either there is something wrong with your standard, or you are right, your standard was applied when the facts worked against Bush, and a higher standard was applied when the facts worked against Kerry.

Whichever way, it shows clear bias in the MSM for the election of John Kerry.

Anspar Jonte

Felicia, no, I think CBS caved under pressure. It's textbook PR damage control. The truth is irrelevant. Let me repeat that. The truth is irrelevant. CBS had to do something because of public perception.

FWIW, I've seen Daily Kos once or twice, never visited Josh Marshall. Neither are bookmarked. But thanks for dismissing out of hand people that want proof instead of allegations and mob rule. You presume too much. I presume nothing. That's why I find this whole situation absurd. I'm equally skeptical of corporate media and bloggers. But in today's perception realm, it seems bloggers have been afforded instant credibility simply because they are not corporate media. How sad for our democracy.


Felicia, I've worked in newspapers for 21 years, most recently as an investigative-projects area. I get paid to go over details with a fine-tooth comb. I get paid to know WHAT we know, HOW we know it and what we DON'T know.

And I say again: We DON'T KNOW whether the documents are authentic. YOU might be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the documents were fake. I think that's the likeliest scenario, but I'm not willing to state that as a fact absent more evidence that probably won't be forthcoming. The fact that we have different standards of proof is no reflection on our respective levels of intelligence, your imputations notwithstanding.

And don't even get me started on the larger question of whether George W. Bush fulfilled his military-service obligations, a question that somehow vanished in all the whoop-dee-doo over these particular documents. The clear, uncontradicted and overwhelming documentary evidence is that he did not. What that has to do with the Swift Boat Veterans I do not know.

One other thing: As a Republican since 1978 in a state where Republicans do not screw around, I'd make an awfully odd tool of the mainstream media. I'm just sayin.

Felicia Krippet

What does this have to do with the SBV?

It's all about double standards, arising like a MSM tsunami against the dramatic rightward shift among the citizenry in the last 25 years. Amazing, that you don't get that.

Having "worked in Newspapers" as long as you have, Lex, you are obviously unqualified to comment further. ROFL.


Four conclusions seem inescapable to me:

1) The pressure for "scoops" has always been there for the media, but the electronic age adds competitive challenges that are too often met with poorly done research, verification and analysis.

2) News-as-entertainment replaced news-as-public service and newscaster-as-celebrity replaced newscaster-as-servant, with predictable impacts on style over substance.

3) Scrambling for apparent scandals (the memo, the Swift boats, Dean's scream) has resulted in a failure of networks and press to shelve the use of their resources -- facts, reason and analysis -- in favor of soundbites, impressions and reactions.

4) Ideology and greed have replaced professionalism and integrity in the media, with a distortion of reality and commercialism now the driving norms. We, not the media, have to accept the blame for all this. If we demanded -- and supported -- fairness and competence, market pressures might bring back the golden age of journalism.
Instead of outrage, skepticism and engagement, the public has reacted with indifference, wallowing in ignorance and apathy and accepting the latest Hollywood gossip as hard news.

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