Another Black Eye for CBS
Posted September 29, 2004
By Paul M. Rodriguez
Media Credit: Jim Bradford
Question: What will it take for CBS to play the news straight?
Answer: I have no clue. But I know this: Until CBS cleans shop, I don't think anyone can fix what's wrong.
What brings this to mind is a report September 28 by Richard Schlesinger involving Internet speculation about resumption of a military draft. I knew the story was flawed but did not learn of the apparent egregious nature of the flaws until I scanned numerous websites the next day where the story was dissected - as was done on the now-infamous Dan Rather story about the Texas Air National Guard and George W. Bush.
Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if CBS News is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee - or at least a satellite office for John Kerry's campaign committee.
I was begrudgingly sticking with my beliefs that despite the screw-ups by Rather and his bosses over the apparently fake ANG documents, CBS newsmen (and even the network's anchor and managing editor) still could be solid journalists. So to speak, I thought the debacle (and ongoing internal/external probe) would actually spur a higher ethical standard at the Tiffany Network.
Brother, was I wrong. And I'm now wondering whether other CBS stories aired over the years also contained flaws, errors, bad judgment and perhaps even purposeful deceit. As a consumer of news I should never harbor such thoughts. But now I do...because of CBS.
I'm not alone in such worries as colleagues, friends and acquaintances at CBS and the other networks, not to mention magazines and newspapers are wondering the same thing. And also wondering whether news reports they carry will now be suspect and subjected to closer scrutiny - including stories previously aired, broadcast or printed.Like before with Rather on the Bush story, the CBS reporter not only engaged in sloppy journalism and innuendo based on false facts, the story lacked context that a reasonable person can only assume was purposeful and meant to harm President Bush.
How else to explain Schlesinger's story that failed to mention that it was Democrats in Congress, including Charlie Rangel (D-NY) who have introduced legislation to revive the draft? How else to explain the failure to tell viewers that a reportedly worried mother interviewed is a well-known anti-draft and anti-war organizer obviously with an agenda?
How else to explain the failure put context on comments by the acting director of the Selective Service System who was quoted as saying he could mount a draft in six month ... but, as he's said in the past and the agency says on its website, only if that's what Congress and the president want to do?
How else to explain that despite Internet rumors about a draft being reinstated, numerous debunking sites have unveiled the gossip as false and yet, Schlesinger didn't mention this and he did not point out that the Defense Department and White House said it's not true?
It's one thing to screw up the facts or get wrong facts. It's quite another to invent a story and hype it with biased reporting that fails to put the issue into context. And in this case, there neither was a story nor an issue - other than perhaps a story on why Democrats like Rangel think it's a good idea to revive the military draft. But that would not have dinged the Republicans and more pointedly, smeared President Bush.
We've said this many times over many years - we don't care if newsmen have bias and prejudices so long as they don't allow such personal feelings to overshadow the integrity of a news report that provides accurate information and puts that information into context.The story CBS News should have aired - if any had to be aired - is who is behind the Internet hoax on the draft and/or why are Democrats so interested in bringing back the draft. Exploring this coupled with rejection of such an idea by Bush, Republicans and the military might have been interesting. I don't know.
But I know this: At least it would have been an honest report, not one fabricated and filled with false and mis-leading information that can only be attributed to political motivations by those at CBS.
Dan Rather rightly is in hot water over his disingenuous antics on the ANG story and follow up interviews. And no doubt he will be soundly criticized once the outside investigators brought in by CBS bosses finish their probe about what went wrong.
Schlesinger now also must be investigated by these hired guns - and CBS has no choice but to launch an expanded internal probe into the judgments, motivations and management of its evening news anchor who runs the same department where Schlesinger reportedly works and one has to assume reports directly to ... guess who? Dan Rather, the managing editor of CBS News.
Contrary to what most press outlets have been reporting after Rather said he was "sorry" about the Texas ANG fiasco, neither he nor CBS has actually apologized to the American public, the family of the now-deceased ANG commander, and to President Bush.
To paraphrase Riley - What a revolting development this is!
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