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, 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.