More Rathergate

More Rathergate

: Just got off FoxNews; going back, probably, in the 2pm hour. The reporter there, who got to read the report while I was blabbing, said they commission did not conclude that the memoes were forged. Jeesh.

I see that the report is calling for more commissions and committees and all that — which is just the wrong thing to do: It puts yet more distance between the journalists and the public they are supposed to serve. They should be doing just the opposite: tearing down the walls, making journalists responsible for interacting with the public.

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

: Of course, RatherBiased.com has lots of analysis. Good stuff.

I’m sitting in a Cosi and keep trying to download the full report but Acrobat keeps crapping out on me. Grrrrr. UPDATE: Got it.

: Joe Gandelman says Rather got off easy. Knowing Joe, I’ll bet he’ll compile lots of links. Ditto TVNewser, of course.

: Sisu grabs on a quote from FoxNews: Bloggers are like a bar.

: Can some nice soul videotape FoxNews from 2-3p ET?Nevermind. They found some other bloggers. I won’t be on Fox at 2.

: Andrew Tyndall of the Tyndall Report says in the comments:

Talk about burying the lead: “Dan Rather does not appear…to have even seen the Segment before it aired.”

CBS News did not have to hire a high-priced inside-the-Beltway law firm to conclude that fundamental journalistic procedures were violated and that the three executives and one producer involved need to lose their jobs. President Andrew Heyward had all the authority to do that internally last fall.

So why spend thousands of dollars on this 274-page report?

My answer is that the only way Heyward and Rather get to keep their jobs is if outsiders allow them to do so. For them to stay at CBS News without an external imprimatur would have looked like a whitewash.

Yet the report itself goes into picayune detail about the actions of Mary Mapes and the others and spends very little time on Heyward and Rather.

Heyward twice instructs his Vice President Betsy West to get on top of this story: two days before it airs she is told to “defend every syllable” and two days after she is told to “come up with new and substantive information” to authenticate the segment.

West fails to follow either instruction. The panel concludes it is her fault. Heyward’s management style is not addressed.

As for Rather, he puts his name to a discredited report for 60 Minutes and his reward, after leaving his job as CBS Evening News anchor, is to keep his job as correspondent for 60 Minutes!

Let’s not forget that back in last September both the Wednesday and Sunday editions of 60 Minutes were being aired under the same logo (no Roman numeral II, no day of the week suffix). Yet the panel’s report rewrites history by giving Wednesday program a separate name from the Sunday one, a change which was instituted only after this scandal broke. CBS News should be grateful for the panel’s efforts at keeping its Sunday jewel untarnished.

This was not the biggest favor the panel handed CBS News management, however. In its depiction of Rather’s workload–scurrying from Convention to hurricane while squeezing in a couple of hours to work on the Mapes piece–we see a once-major news division operating on a shoestring. The panel does not address the extent to which CBS News’ errors arise from its management’s decisions to scale back its resources–decisions made under Heyward’s leadership.

Great post. CBS and Heyward’s reaction to this — after the Nixonian coverup period — was corporate buckpassing and fingerpointing… rather than trying to fix the problem — and, more ambitiously, to reinvent news.

: Memorandum has a great pileup of comment.

: Here’s Mark Tapscott’s comments.

: Rathergate, of course, has more.

  • brian

    Just wanted to say, job well done. I hope the afternoon show goes well, too.
    p.s. Is the buzzmachine hiring?

  • http://sisu.typepad.com Sissy Willis
  • http://www.tyndallreport.com Andrew Tyndall

    Talk about burying the lead: “Dan Rather does not appear…to have even seen the Segment before it aired.”
    CBS News did not have to hire a high-priced inside-the-Beltway law firm to conclude that fundamental journalistic procedures were violated and that the three executives and one producer involved need to lose their jobs. President Andrew Heyward had all the authority to do that internally last fall.
    So why spend thousands of dollars on this 274-page report?
    My answer is that the only way Heyward and Rather get to keep their jobs is if outsiders allow them to do so. For them to stay at CBS News without an external imprimatur would have looked like a whitewash.
    Yet the report itself goes into picayune detail about the actions of Mary Mapes and the others and spends very little time on Heyward and Rather.
    Heyward twice instructs his Vice President Betsy West to get on top of this story: two days before it airs she is told to “defend every syllable” and two days after she is told to “come up with new and substantive information” to authenticate the segment.
    West fails to follow either instruction. The panel concludes it is her fault. Heyward’s management style is not addressed.
    As for Rather, he puts his name to a discredited report for 60 Minutes and his reward, after leaving his job as CBS Evening News anchor, is to keep his job as correspondent for 60 Minutes!
    Let’s not forget that back in last September both the Wednesday and Sunday editions of 60 Minutes were being aired under the same logo (no Roman numeral II, no day of the week suffix). Yet the panel’s report rewrites history by giving Wednesday program a separate name from the Sunday one, a change which was instituted only after this scandal broke. CBS News should be grateful for the panel’s efforts at keeping its Sunday jewel untarnished.
    This was not the biggest favor the panel handed CBS News management, however. In its depiction of Rather’s workload–scurrying from Convention to hurricane while squeezing in a couple of hours to work on the Mapes piece–we see a once-major news division operating on a shoestring. The panel does not address the extent to which CBS News’ errors arise from its management’s decisions to scale back its resources–decisions made under Heyward’s leadership.

  • http://johnnydollar.us johnny dollar

    Lengthy excerpts from Mr Jarvis’s Fox appearance posted here

  • http://jimtreacher.com Jim Treacher

    To distance it even further from the Sunday 60 Minutes, and in the spirit of the comparatively plausible and straightforward 24, they should change the name to 1. It’s the loneliest number, you know.

  • http://www.tonypierce.com tony

    when can we expect the white house to do the same investigation / firing / resigning over lack of wmd?

  • http://www.instarepublican.com Instahack

    Hactackular Jeff! Keep up the shilling for the right! Meanwhile, no one in the right wing blogosphere has jack to say about Armstrong Williams which in my humble opinion is 100 times the scandal of “Rathergate” — I mean BRIBING journalists. Oh well, keep shilling Jeff. You’re great at it. Almost as good as I.
    Your buddy,
    Glenn Benolds

  • http://www.instarepublican.com Instahack

    Tony, how dare you say that? Didn’t you take the pledge to support the President? Sheesh.

  • buzz

    “no one in the right wing blogosphere has jack to say about Armstrong Williams”
    No one? No one? Apparently Mr Instahack doesnt get out much.
    “which in my humble opinion is 100 times the scandal of “Rathergate” — I mean BRIBING journalists”
    Wasnt this an OPINION piece? So you believe paying someone for a opinion piece, while wrong, is 100 times the scandal of CBS trotting out fake documentation in order to swing the presidental election. Interesting.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Well, hack, you’ve aptly named yourself. I write about Williams below and went on at length this morning on it — and the corruption of government doing this — on none other than Air America.

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    On Instahack-types, blogs are like the bar and as in any friendly tavern there will be a few annoying drunks. They can provide a little humor but they are just as capable of ruining the place as they are of giving it a little color.

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    Also, in a move of deep irony, an hour ago Glenn Reynolds posted his latest Tech Central Station article on… you guessed it, Armstrong Williams.
    http://www.techcentralstation.com/011005G.html

  • Gunther

    So Jeff, are you saying that you are part of the right wing blogosphere after all?
    p.s. – does Rathergate mean that Bush wasn’t AWOL?
    p.p.s. – My own opinion is that having the Government try to sway public opinion by bribing journalists and pundits is a little more serious than having one network screw up in basic journalistic standards. If you’re really that upset about CBS trying to “sway the election with fake documentation”, i’ll expect the same amount of outrage to be expressed over the Swift Boat Veterans.

  • http://www.petetheelder.com Pete The Elder

    “no one in the right wing blogosphere has jack to say about Armstrong Williams”
    There were also multiple posts on the corner criticizing Williams over the past few days such as this:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_01_02_corner-archive.asp#049714
    The biggest problem with the report is that it denies the two biggest problems of the story: That the documents were crude forgeries that had a very questionable source and that this was a partisan attack by journalists against a president they did not like in an attempt to influence an election. CBS was dishonest when it aired this story and is still being dishonest about it now.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Gunther, no, I confound those labelers. I’m just making clear that I covered the waterfront.

  • h0mi

    does Rathergate mean that Bush wasn’t AWOL?

    It means this story has been sufficiently poisoned that any “proof” emerging to show whether Bush was AWOL or not will be suspect, and in everyone’s heart of hearts, they will simply believe what they currently believe and will be unswayed by any new evidence that might emerge.

  • h0mi

    That the documents were crude forgeries that had a very questionable source and that this was a partisan attack by journalists against a president they did not like in an attempt to influence an election.

    Was anything mentioned about the Kerry campaign’s (non-?)involvement in this?

  • http://hubris.typepad.com Hubris

    Notes to self for future blog comments:
    A. If a story makes those of my political ilk uncomfortable, immediately suggest comparison to some other story that is negative for other side of the political spectrum.
    B. In connection with A, also suggest relative amounts of coverage on the respective stories are lopsided and unfair.
    C. If in doubt as to my actual argument, use the insults “hack” and “shill” liberally.

  • Angus Jung

    “p.s. – does Rathergate mean that Bush wasn’t AWOL?”
    Hey everybody, let’s prove a negative! “Does this mean Hilary didn’t kill Vince Foster?”

  • dries

    oh my! stop the presses! journalists and/or political commentators can be bought and they themselves might be paying for info! what’s next?
    someone will discover that the pope is catholic?

  • Mike NYC

    In the interest of full disclosure, Jeff, don’t forget to mention that you’ve hated Rather’s work for years and years and years.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Mike: I’ve disclosed that again and again but, fine, I’ll disclose it again: I’ve called Rather the dumbest anchor alive. I think he’s a haughty fool. I think he’s bad for news. Is that what you had in mind?