My New York Post op-ed on Rathergate

My New York Post op-ed on Rathergate

: Here is my Post op-ed on Rathergate; they asked me to do it as the schizo Media Man/Blog Boy. Oddly, it’s not online. So here’s the text. The sidebar is below…

postrather.jpg: Blogger Ken Layne famously faced down Big Media in 2001 and warned,

  • Kim

    Nicely done Mr. Jarvis.

  • Jeff:
    This is an excellent piece. Thanks for writing it. As a public journalism advocate I have just one slight quibble. You say, “Debate is how we run a democracy.” Sometimes deliberation and dialogue work better. Rather than banging heads together we meet with the idea of reaching a solution, not to prove who is right and who is wrong, as so often is the debate framework. Nonetheless, you nailed it. Thanks again.

  • Rather was right. Buckhead was a republican political operative.

  • Jeff, I don’t disagree with what you say, but I would alter the emphasis some, if I had space in the New York Post to write about this. I just think it’s damnably hard for big media to operate in the same mode as bloggers and unrealistic to expect otherwise.
    In the first place, assuming the forgery charge holds, heads will roll and reputations will be blackened at CBS. That makes this not only a journalism problem but a personnel problem — and every business walks cautiously in public around personnel problems. To do otherwise is insanely risky.
    Second, the only thing worse than getting the story wrong in the first place would be retracting a story that later turned out to be true. I agree that CBS should move faster, but I don’t think it could possibly move as fast as bloggers would like.
    Third, if CBS got burned by a source, then it is obligated, I believe, to burn that source publicly. But it can’t take that step until the source has been given every reasonable opportunity to back up the documents.
    Fourth, the scoop mentality isn’t going away. It gets people talking, it glues eyes to sets, it gives reporters an adrenaline thrill, and it makes money. We’re stuck with it.
    Finally, while disclosing biases is honorable, disclosure can be complicated at a big media company. Easily a dozen people (many more, in some cases) may have a hand in covering a major story, each with distinct biases, many of which are unrelated to political ideology. And the biases that really count belong to managers and owners who probably have no direct input into the story at all. I don’t want a read a story that uses more space to disclose biases than to report the news.
    Bloggers live in a different world than “real” journalists, and that’s why I have such a hard time envisioning the cooperation you advocate.

  • Kat

    Alex–what difference does it make what Buckhead is, or if he was in pyjamas eating fruitloops, if he did not provide Rather with the documents and Burkett did–a Kerry operative, then you should worry more about Burkett than a blogger who pointed out the lie. If Glen Reynolds and Charles Johnson are Bush operatives does it mean they can not have an opinion?
    You are wrong about blogs. Blogs are making Big media accountable–in the words of Andrew S–the collective whole makes for a corrective whole. Stand corrected, Dan Rather–you’ve been caught with your jammies down.

  • Right you are, a high point of this whole episode to date has been that differing views, differing positions, were freely brought out. Does anyone have the original source for: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?”
    On McLaughlin Group a couple of Sundays ago, Fr. McLaughlin pointed out that prominent people (who I will leave unnamed) seemed to be accusing the media of bias, when it was the facts being reported that were actually being disagreed with.
    Are you aware that the president of CBS has publicly committed himself to uncovering the source and authenticity of the documents aired on ’60 minutes’?

  • Kat

    Forgery is a crime. You can’t make up your facts and demand they be considered if you have to commit a criminal act in the process.
    These were leftist perceptions–they wanted it to be true, they couldn’t prove it, so they made up the proof.
    CBS is a joke if they still maintain they are committed to uncovering authenticity–they simply need to apologize for using the media as a Kerry whore and Dan Rather as his pimp.
    The idea that what is in the documents and not the fact that they are a complete forgery, is what is important, boggles my mind. My God, how can you even give them an iota of credibility if they are false. They are a lie–are you willing to give credence to a lie? Dan Rather was an operative for Kerry, plain and simple. It backfired because he got blocked by bloggers.

  • David Crisp,
    Of course CBS should be diligent in both publishing and retracting. We no more want news sources to hastily retract stories then we want them to publish stories without appropriate vetting.
    However, there was no need last Friday night for CBS to pull the story. However, what CBS News should have done was announce that they had started an internal or external investigation into the story due to the credible questions being raised, either that or answer the questions sufficiently to show that the documents were, as claimed, authentic. Instead, CBS News attacked the messenger and stonewalled.

  • “republican operatives”

  • old maltese

    Jeff — Wonderful piece. Any calls yet from CBS to do some work for them? :•)
    Alex — Good grief, man. It was a *Republican* in Atlanta who first sounded the alarum? Who would you think would be motivated to do so first? Michael Moore? Certainly not Mary Mapes.
    Besides, it’s turned out to be an *obvious* story: absent Buckhead, Charles Johnson and the others would have been on the case quickly anyway.

  • h0mi

    Rather was right. Buckhead was a republican political operative.

    Sounds like someone’s been playing at DU a while.

  • Jeff –
    That’s a well-written piece and tells a good cautionary tale for Old Media. Leading with “factcheck your ass” quote was a nice touch adding just the right amount of “oomph” to the column.
    Kudos to you…

  • Rick E

    Jeff…….Thanks for the straight story……You think there’s any chance MSM will listen?

  • Kat

    The great thing is is that Jeff can write what he did and he can’t be fired for criticizing Rather like the radio host on a CBS affiliate in Seattle( Brian Maloney)who got canned for saying some of what Jeff just wrote. Big Media can’t control the bloggers–but bloggers can control Big Media. I love it.

  • Great article and so true. But as big as this story is, can you imagine how much bigger it would be if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was Republicans making up documents to hurt Kerry, and the network involved was FoxNews? I think it would be treated by Big Media as a much bigger story. There is bias even in the treatment of this story about bias.

  • Andy

    With everyone saying what CBS *should* do, and all the professional journalists turning their faces sideways, it’s easy to get confused and not pay attention to what CBS is doing.
    CBS is making Enron look transparent.
    CBS is stonewalling and denying any wrong doing.
    When left with just the actions of CBS, the conclusion is that the theories are correct. There is a conspiracy. There is bias in the media.
    Why was Mapes assigned the Story for five years?
    After this election cycle, the story will not be relevant. Five years of chasing a small story when CBS claims no bias, seems illogical.
    Watching the journalistic equivalent of the “Blue Wall” spring up to defend CBS is sad. Everybody may do it, but CBS got caught. Or is CBS is the only one? Mediocrity, mendacity or conspiracy?
    The wall says it didn’t happen. No bias, no rush to manufacture a story, no attack mentality, no party favoritism.
    The conspiracy theorists have been handed a tremendous amount of credibility.
    Will Hollywood run with this story?
    Blogger community saves Presidency from Media Conspiracy to use manufactured information? Starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman-!
    Naw, it’s conventional Hollywood wisdom that Media is savlation of innocents from evil President and/or agencies run amuck. A rogue media is not in the storyline of cultural myths.
    CBS’ culpability is too hard to imagine. The reality, if true, affects so many other assumptions. It must be denied.
    The Emperor is naked. The Wizard is a humbug.
    There is no Tooth Fairy. Santa is a lie.

  • Check out TIME Magazine’s cover story this week. Apparently CBS use of fraudulent memos is just a matter of opinion. They still don’t get it.

  • Good coverage Jeff, from one of those pushing for you to cover this story :)

  • Come on – he clearly knew something that the citizen journalists at little-green-footballs didn

  • Kathy

    Maybe you can explain to me just exactly how Buckhead (the big bad Republican operative) got CBS to put those documents on line for all to see and examine?

  • Kat

    Yeah, you’re right if Daily Kos had caught the fraud it would be so much more believable. Are you for real? It was not ten minutes–don’t get your time zones as mixed up as your reasoning. A republican broke the story. Duh. Did you expect it to be a Democrat? They were too busy crowing and celebrating about how devasting it would be to Bush. Hell, the leftist media still has a hard time covering the story–but are forced to because of the bloggers.

  • Henry

    Good piece Jeff..
    How many writers have, within a few months, written opinion for both ‘The Nation’ and ‘The New York Post’? I think not many..
    The militant middle looks better every day.

  • Walter E. Wallis

    When the Golden Gate Bridge opened, ferry boats went out of business. Later thay have come back in a smaller way, offering a botique commute for a few who can use it. They have bars, and the bridge does not.
    The big gatekeeper media is history because they can not keep other opinions down as they did for ages. They have to provide something for those who wish to continue, a value added to the discussion. Their easy collecting tolls for the information highway is gone forever. Even funnies are on line now, so if you don’t have a canary or a puppy…
    I watched the discussion grow on line, and it was definitely not a single point of growth, and it was not blindly accepted. Go back and check the sites that suppose that Compository were available to the typing pool at an ANG site. The only reason that Selectrics and other electrics ever made it was their abillity to make multiple carbon copies.
    Contrary views were given full access to comment sections, and voices of caution were also raised. The blog did what CBS and AP did not. We do not need CBS or AP any more.

  • pianoman

    Jeff: Great piece. You managed to cover the important facts and point out the importance of the new media without deploying high quantities of snark.
    Alex: You’re engaging in the same game as Rather. Instead of focusing on the facts as they are on the ground, you’re more interested in figuring out *who* uncovered them. Motive is apparently more important to you than the forgery itself. I assume this means that if DU/Kos/Atrios had broken the story wide open instead of PowerLine and LGF that you’d be onboard 100%, right?

  • Damn fine, Jarvis. You said it as well as it can be said.
    I agree that Mr. Buckhead is a critical item in the story now, which still has several laps to run. I will tell you this. For any truly on top of things political reporter, it’s The Federalist Society thing that’s intriguing. That’s a connected, and clever group, with a dashing sense of humor. I would be looking into that.

  • “Buckhead wasn

  • Wow, great piece.
    You kept me interested even though I am already sick of hearing about Dan’s Rather bias news.
    The story has killed CBS news, they continue to prove that the media has a liberal bias.

  • JJ: “Bloggers would never say, ‘My evidence looks as phony as a Saddam dollar and I won

  • If Buckhead had written that he’d observed a Democratic operative forging the memos, then Buckhead’s political affilations would be relevant. What he said was: Gosh, this looks like it was done in MS Word. Could it really have been typed on a typewriter in the early ’70s? Nobody was asked to take his word for anything. They were encouraged to check it out for themselves. And they did.
    CBS was reckless and arrogant beyond belief in handling this story, and may still not get it. You can’t justify putting forgeries on the air based on an 86-year-old woman’s assertion that she knows what a dead guy thought more than 30 years ago. Especially when the woman wasn’t interviewed till after the story ran. And his family says otherwise.
    Like Jeff, I worked for many years in print journalism. I’m sad to see CBS destroy its credibility, apparently to save Dan Rather’s ego. People are cynical enough as it is. This will deepen the cynicism and encourage more people to stop caring about politics because it’s all a big lie. Bloggers feel empowered because we can use our collective intelligence to challenge the wisdom handed down from on high; most people feel they’re being treated like suckers.

  • Great piece! You gave me another reason to be glad that I read the Sunday New York Post. I love that this story has been exposed, but I wish the Ed Schrock story got as much coverage, too.

  • h0mi

    But to Jeff’s thesis

  • h0mi

    I’m sad to see CBS destroy its credibility, apparently to save Dan Rather’s ego.

    I am sadder that this controvery only occurred because of someone’s incompetance. If the documents were “better” forgeries, we would probably not be doubting their authenticity and would be having a different debate.
    And the fact is, it stems from the idea that someone would falsify documents in order to “prove” something. Complain all you want about Starr, Scaife or Moon but I don’t know of any circumstances where any of them ever forged a document about Clinton to show what a scoundrel he was. Something seems wrong where people were more willing to accept this as truth than the idea that a missle did not hit the Pentagon.

  • shark

    Jeff, it’s not just because Fox has a point of view. That’s part of it, but the other part is Fox does try to show both sides. They do not 100% buy the Republican line, and they usually have commentators from “the other side” (Alan Colmes, Juan Williams, Neal Gabler come to mind as regular contributors)
    Oliver Willis and Atrios have their “point of view” but they have no credibility- which Fox has.
    (By the way, I never get tired of pointing out how the maligned FOX now has a better track record of credibility and integrity than the venerable media icons NyTimes, CNN, BBC and now CBS)

  • Disgusted Reader

    “Instead of protesting too much, Big Media should learn the real lesson of this news era, when FoxNews (corporate sibling to this newspaper) is No. 1 because it has a viewpoint, when the Guardian grows internationally because of its viewpoint, when bloggers explode because there is an audience for their varied viewpoints: Namely, it

  • smartarse

    That was no mistake. It was deliberately done to smear and take down a President anyway they can. CBS and Dan Rather been in the business far too long to overlook something like this. They thought the people would be fooled and believed such a “reputable” Network would not report something that is false. Well it backfired and it backfired hard. They need to be jailed. This is a crime to the highest degree. This is worse than Watergate…hellooo?????