Dan Rather: Unemployed after all? – and – The blue-ribbon report backfires
: First, the news: The New York Times today hints that Dan Rather may end up unemployed after all if CBS cancels 60 Minutes Wednesday (probably as a way to get rid of Dan since they don’t have the balls to fire anybody without a blue-ribbon panel).
The future of CBS’s “60 Minutes Wednesday” – the program that broadcast Mr. Rather’s report, now discredited, about President Bush’s National Guard record – is in doubt, both the top CBS executive and the program’s new executive producer acknowledged yesterday.
Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS and co-president of the network’s parent company, Viacom, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Rather was expected to continue his career at CBS on the Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes” after he steps down as the network’s primary anchor in March. But Mr. Moonves added the phrase, “provided the show continues.”
That’s a door as big as Dan’s ego for Moonves to drive through once he figures out what he should think.
: Note that the blue-ribbon panel’s report did not do what CBS hoped for; quite the opposite. The network hoped this would put this unpleasantness behind them and clear the pipes like an ethical enema. Instead, it only put a harsher light on CBS’ problems and it highlighted the network’s — and the panel’s — refusal to deal with the hard issues:
: There continue to be calls for Rather’s head and Rather hasn’t helped his own cause with his response. Jay Rosen — as the good professor he is — asks Rather to tell us exactly what he has learned in all this. It’s a test, Dan. You’re not passing.
: There are also still calls for the head of CBS News head Andrew Heyward. As someone (sorry, I wish I could remember who) pointed out: If the people he fired needed to be fired, then why did he wait for a blue-ribbon panel to do it? What does that say about Heyward’s — and Moonves’ — management? Not much good.
: They appoint an insider, a Tiffany-era dino, to be their conscience and she sets off immediately saying stupid things. If they were going to appoint anyone to such a job, they should have followed the NY Times lead and (1) named an outsider with the spine of Dan Okrent and (2) given that outsider a means of criticizing CBS News on CBS air. Instead, they get someone safe who’s say safe (if inane) things.
: And they appointed commissions. I said earlier that’s precisely the wrong thing to do: building more walls between the news and the public it’s supposed to serve… and hear.
: The panel and the network refused to deal with the key issue of bias. They could have denied it. They could have taken the bull by the horns and grappled with the fact that, of course, Rather and Mapes have
bias personal perspectives about Bush and this story and more. But they did the worst thing: neither. That’s no way to build credibility and trust with your public.
: The panel and the network further refused to admit that the documents were forgeries. Again, that’s no way to build credibility and trust with your public. Do they still think we’re stupid?
: They did damage to the morale inside CBS News by firing some folks who actually tried to admit the mistake and were stopped and keeping on other folks who should have been out there doing the admitting.
: They did nothing to thank the people who pointed out their error. They did nothing to invite them into the process. They gave them no respect. Huge mistake.
: The biggest issue of all is that they did not change CBS News. Not one bit. Nor did they change news itself. They should have at least started, at least tried to change news and the relationship with the public.
But they didn’t. They merely tried to clear the pipes. They thought they’d feel better now. They don’t.
Remember how Howell Raines thought he was finished with his problems when he got rid of Jayson Blair? You know what happened next.
Ditto that at CBS News. This story ain’t over, not by a long shot.
: UPDATE: Former CBS News pres Van Gordon Sauter says:
What’s the big problem at CBS News?
Well, for one thing, it has no credibility. And no audience, no morale, no long-term emblematic anchorperson and no cohesive management structure. Outside of those annoyances, it shouldn’t be that hard to fix.