Skip to comments.Is 'Rathergate' a Watershed Moment for U.S. Media?
Posted on 09/20/2004 5:33:17 PM PDT by Vision Thing
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Internet bloggers have drawn blood and American journalism may never be the same.
To hear some press experts tell it, CBS's admission on Monday that it was duped into using questionable documents about President Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War was a watershed moment brought on by a small army of Internet-based commentators known as bloggers.
Their insistence, from the moment that CBS aired its report almost two weeks ago, that the documents were fake turned the question into a national issue ending with Rather, CBS and the American media establishment in a state of deep embarrassment.
Orville Schell, dean of the school of journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, said CBS's admission of error after days of stonewalling was "a landmark moment for the balance between the blogosphere and mainstream media."
Bloggers were the first to challenge the authenticity of the documents and the first to publish detailed examinations of the evidence by dozens of self-declared experts, some of them with Republican party ties.
"The credibility of the media has taken another hit, especially when you consider the story is not Dan Rather but President Bush's service in the National Guard," Schell said.
That latter story -- that said George W. Bush ducked military service in Vietnam by entering the Guard and then getting special treatment thanks to his powerful father -- has been lost in the welter of complaints about the CBS story.
It was not the first time that bloggers have stuck.
Often working anonymously, bloggers have fanned the flames of controversies ranging from whether Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry deserved his Vietnam medals to whether Republican Trent Lott should remain a Senate leader after praising a segregationist.
Schell and former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, among others, say there is a media revolution under way.
Writing in this week's Time magazine, Sullivan said, "The Web has done one revolutionary thing to journalism. It has made the price of entry into the media market minimal. In days gone by, you needed a small fortune to start up a simple magazine or newspaper. Now you need a laptop and a modem."
Steven Miller, who teaches broadcast journalism at New Jersey's Rutgers University, said CBS fell victim to the economics and cut throat competition in television news. "Unfortunately, the truth seems to be taking a back seat to ratings, and this time, CBS got caught up in it," Miller told Reuters.
But Tom Goldstein, former dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism, dismissed the notion that CBS's dilemma was a sign that American journalism has become more sloppy in recent years.
Instead, Goldstein said Rather's report was another example of bad things happening to good news organizations. "They had the best in the business on it, and they got duped and there but for the grace of God go you and I."
Independent network news analyst Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the daily Tyndall Report, said the apparent forgery of the memos alone does not necessarily discredit the substance of Rather's overall story on Bush's service record.
But Goldstein, Miller and Tyndall all questioned CBS News' judgment in going with Rather's report in the first place, even if the documents had turned out to be authentic.
"It's another WMD, another weapon of mass distraction. That's what this whole campaign has turned out to be," Miller said, adding that "somebody out there is trying to keep this running." (additional reporting by Steve Gorman)
And it seems Reuters did not mention the Free Republic's role in the controversy, so not only are they lagging, but their reporting is far from comprehensive and complete.
First Drudge broke the blue dress.
Gives me hope for the future of journalism.
(BTW, isn't always liberals who complain that the media is getting too consolidated and in the hands of too few people?)
Hey, Reuters. Your next.
This writer hasn't stopped trying to say the memos are "fake but true," to use the phrase from the NY Times.
This was just a shot across your bow,Media Fiends.
Prepare to be boarded!
It was the shock heard round the newsworld.
Sorry I can't help it! Somebody stop me.......
CBS was not really duped, its more like they were a willing accomplice.
Don't forget the pajamas!
It won't matter. Rather'll survive and by the time the Nov. ratings period comes around again, CBSNews will have rebounded.
Boy, oh, boy, democrats and Damn Blather should never underestimate the power of the little people. There is a growing tide of conservatism in this country, I truly believe it.
So, who actually gets credit for this? I've seen FreeRepublic and Buckhead's name in news stories. Yeah, baby!
I bet Dan the Man and them other rat bastards will be thinking twice before they pull that stunt again. The bloggers and FreeRepublic and others will be watching.
Aargh, matey, make Damn Blather walk the plank.
They did not get duped. Their own experts told them the documents were fishy.
They went with documents they knew might be fake in order to run the story because they were desperate to arrest Kerry's slide in the polls.
It's as simple as that. Nobody was duped.
"Steven Miller, who teaches broadcast journalism at New Jersey's Rutgers University, said CBS fell victim to the economics and cut throat competition in television news."No, Steven. CBS fell victim to hubris and denial.
(You must have dozed off during History 101.)
They have managed to institute people of the liberal persuasion in all focal points of the major networks.
The free ride is over.
And hillary-if you are reading this-we are going to be all over you should you run. We know you.
Rush made a great point today that lends some credence to your claim. If CBS were really duped, they'd be pissed, because someone intentionally endangered their so-called credibility. Instead, they calmly issue both an admission of being duped and an apology. This is not the behavior of someone who has been played like a fiddle.
Not a chance.
The one unimpeachable source CBS swore backed the story is a fraud, as CBS now claims. Taking CBS at its word (very hard these days; Burkett is probably just the fall guy in a bigger picture), how can a "trusted" news organization ignore such obvious flaws in its source (Burkett has an anti-Bush history that a seventh grader researching a term paper could find in an hour), overlook even more apparent flaws in the proffered documents, pooh-pooh stated qualms about the reliabilty and lack of provenance of the memos, and ignore double-checking other sources to stress test the story (the secretary, the Killian family, Staudt, etc.)?
The answer is that Dan Rather and Mary Mapes are complicit, incompetent or otherwise unfit for the responsiblity that comes with managing a major news division. (By the way, what do you think Mapes was doing while she was working on this story for five years? Talking incessantly to ONE person?)
CBS has embarrassed itself for the last time with this "release." Even the New York Times had the sense to terminate those associated with the Jayson Blair fiasco. I cannot imagine many viewers or affilaites remaining with CBS after this unless swift and appropriate action is taken at CBS News.
I earlier posted that the Rathergate episode would become a case study for journalism schools about the dangers of reposing too much autonomy and lack of accountability in a single person. That case study will now be expanded to business schools to address the economic impact of failed brand crisis management. Successful management will be identified (Tylenol--immediate acknowledgement and recall; NYT firing all associated with Blair and installing public integrity ombudsman) and contrasted with massive failures that led to severe devaluation of brands (CBS News/60 Minutes)
I predict Rather will not be around to call the election this year.
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