September 21, 2004
Bologna meets the grinder
We have obtained a transcript of Rocket Man's appearance last night on CNBC's Capital Report with co-host Gloria Borger and guest Jonathan ("Bologna") Klein. We thought you might enjoy it. Here follows the transcript:
GLORIA BORGER, co-host:
The first questions raised about the CBS National Guard memo story were raised by bloggers and not by traditional media outlets. Have these Internet logs changed the media forever? Joining me now is John Hinderaker of the blog powerline.com [Ed.: Can't she even get our URL right?] and Jon Klein, a former executive vice president for CBS News, now CEO of the FeedRoom, a broadband video company.
Thanks to both of you for being here with us. John Hinderaker, as a member of the mainstream media, I have to ask you what happened on your Web site, Powerline, that you picked up on the Dan Rather "60 Minutes" report so quickly?
Mr. JOHN HINDERAKER (Powerline.com Co-founder): Well, here's how it happened. I would say this is not really a big exception to the way that we and other blogs operate all the time. I think that this story illustrates the medium, the Internet, at its best, but the same kind of thing has happened many times.
It started on the morning of September 9th. We're a group blog; there are three of us who do Powerline. My partner, Scott Johnson, got up early in the morning, and one of the first things he did was to check all the e-mails that readers had sent to us overnight looking for something interesting to follow up on. And one of those e-mails quoted from and linked to a post which somebody called BuckHead had done on a message thread at the Free Republic site, which is basically a message board.
BORGER: It's a very conservative site, we should say.
Mr. HINDERAKER: It's a conservative site, yeah...
Mr. HINDERAKER: ...basically a message board. And Scott thought it was interesting because this guy had looked at these documents which had just become available online, and he made some very good points about the font and the appearance and so on of the documents, said, 'I think they're forgeries.' Scott was intrigued by that, so he put up a quote and a link to the original post on Free Republic, and he said, 'Hey, anybody else out there among our readers have any information about this?' Well, that opened the floodgates. Over the ensuing hours, we received hundreds...
Mr. HINDERAKER: ...and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from readers...
Mr. HINDERAKER: ...not all of them valuable, but many of them from people who had a remarkable knowledge of military protocol of the early 1970s, type fonts and typewriters and so on...
Mr. HINDERAKER: ...and other subject that were relevant.
BORGER: Well, and the rest is obviously history. Now, Jon Klein, let me ask you--it turns out that this blogger BuckHead is Harry McDougald, who is a very conservative lawyer from Atlanta. Who holds the bloggers responsible here in this battle to control the media?
Mr. JON KLEIN (Former CBS News Executive Vice President): Well, to hear them tell it, they hold themselves responsible. And, you know, that's fine as far as it goes; it's just not any kind of a third-party or any kind of a reliable check or balance against them. They are, you know, journals of opinion. And if they're taken that way, they can be useful. But we can't confuse the opinion of a guy shooting off an e-mail from BuckHead, Georgia, as fact.
Mr. HINDERAKER: I don't understand that, Jonathan. Are you saying that Republicans somehow don't have standing to point out forgeries?
Mr. KLEIN: It's not standing. It's just: What do we make of it? You know, it's somebody's opinion until it's proven.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Let's talk about checks and balances because I think the fundamental point that needs to be made is that there are so many more checks and balances that operate in the blogosphere if you compare it to, say, CBS News.
Mr. KLEIN: Like--such as what?
BORGER: How can you say that? How can you say that?
Mr. HINDERAKER: I can say th--well, listen to me. If we make a mistake on Powerline, we will, in a matter of minutes, be barraged with e-mails from our readers pointing out the mistake. And other bloggers will point out the mistake.
BORGER: Well, Jon Klein, don't you get that at CBS News, when you were at CBS, if you made a mistake?
Mr. KLEIN: There are probably six or seven different layers that I can count of, in terms of checks and balances, at least that "60 Minutes," which I used to oversee. I'm not there anymore, and I don't know, you know, what went on behind the curtain lately. But, you know, there are an awful lot of checks and balances in place there, too.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Well, those six or seven levels of checks and balances, number one, obviously didn't work in this case.
Mr. KLEIN: No question.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Number two, those tend to be people who are all peas out of the same pod, people with the same perspective, the same interest, the same ideology.
BORGER: Well, Jon Klein, let me ask you this. As Michael Isikoff was saying before, the one question that remains unanswered here is: Who passed these documents to CBS--or to Bill Burkett, who passed it on to CBS?
Mr. KLEIN: Right. Right. That's the big, juicy question.
BORGER: The big, juicy question. Is this something that the Internet can get to the bottom of, or does CBS have to do it?
Mr. KLEIN: I think it's fair game for anybody. It's a loose ball, and let's see who can get after it and come up with the facts. But this whole discussion needs to be about facts, and blogs, unfortunately, are all about opinion.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Jonathan, that is where you are exactly wrong.
Mr. KLEIN: I'm a blogger. I have a blog, and it's my opinions about certain things in the world. Your blog is about certain opinions that you have.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Jonathan, then you'd better start reading Powerline because we link to our sources, we cite facts.
Mr. HINDERAKER: On September 9th, we quoted from readers going back and forth arguing between themselves on some of these very obscure issues of kerning and so on, presenting both sides.
Mr. KLEIN: Yeah, I'm sure do you.
BORGER: And, John Hinderaker, we'll read Powerline if you can get to the bottom of who supplied Bill Burkett with these documents.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Well, let me tell you that there is another mystery that I think is more of a mystery than that, and that is: Was Mr. Burkett...
Mr. HINDERAKER: ...the last person to have these documents before they went to CBS?
BORGER: OK. Well, we're going to have to leave it there. Maybe you can get to the bottom that one, too. John Hinderaker and Jon Klein, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. KLEIN: Thank you.
Mr. HINDERAKER: Thank you very much.