Skip to comments.'Rathergate' marks big victory for bloggers (FR mentioned)
Posted on 09/23/2004 3:50:02 AM PDT by Libloather
Kathleen Parker: 'Rathergate' marks big victory for bloggers
The CBS mess variously known as "Forgerygate" or "Rathergate" is by any other name a seminal moment in the blogosphere that holds promise not only for revolutionizing journalism, but also perhaps for problem-solving on a global scale.
And why not?
Still in relative infancy, the blogosphere - that new galaxy within the journalism universe wherein citizen journalists known as bloggers (short for keepers of Web logs) chat among themselves through mutual links and commentary - has defined itself in large part as a vehicle for challenging the mainstream media (MSM).
Bloggers love fact-checking television and newspaper reporters and commentators, for instance, and have proved themselves both energetic and competent on both fronts.
They've been credited with challenges that led to the retirements of both Sen. Trent Lott as majority leader upon his waxing nostalgic for Strom Thurmond's good ol' Dixiecrat segregationist days and Howell Raines as editor of The New York Times following the Jason Blair debacle.
But the piece de resistance has occurred over the past several days as bloggers questioned the authenticity of documents CBS News presented allegedly proving that President George W. Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard.
This is where most sensible people start nodding off, but the larger drama of the Blogosphere v. CBS is sufficiently compelling to stay awake. What happened is perhaps familiar by now:
The documents CBS presented supposedly came from the personal files of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, which Killian supposedly typed more than 30 years ago. Rather and 60 Minutes II vouched for the authenticity of the documents, one of which claimed that a Texas Air National Guard squadron commander was trying to "sugarcoat" Bush's record.
Cumulative evidence produced primarily by the blogosphere suggests that the documents are forgeries and that Rather and CBS were duped in a political hoax.
Through the weekend, Rather was still sticking by his guns despite the fact that many of CBS's sources for the story have distanced themselves, while other news organizations have produced reports lending credence to the hoax theory.
Both Killian's son and widow, for example, say they doubt the memos are real, as Killian rarely typed. One of the sources CBS said would corroborate the charges said he was misled by the network.
All these discussions with the Killians and others took place after the blogosphere had worked its magic, beginning when freerepublic.com suggested the documents might not be real.
Such was the spark that began the flame that grew into the wildfire that became the conflagration that threatens to consign journalistic credibility to history's ash heap.
Fueling the fire in the earliest stages were most notably Power Line (powerlineblog.com) and Little Green Footballs (www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog), which ran the just-discovered memos through some simple tests to verify their authenticity.
Key to the unraveling of CBS's hyped documents, as bloggers pointed out, were the superscript 'th' and the Times New Roman font used in the alleged Killian memo, both of which seem to belong to a rather modern Microsoft Word default letter-writing program rather than a 1972-era typewriter.
Make that yet another victory for the nerds, but not nerds in pajamas, as former CBS executive Jonathan Klein said in an attempt to impugn bloggers.
"You couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances (at '60 Minutes') and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing," said Klein.
The implication that bloggers are slacker dust bunnies has delighted bloggers, the best of whom are lawyers, professors, scientists, renegade journalists and techies of various sorts, such as the brothers Johnson (Charles and Michael) at "Little Green Footballs," whose years of experience in state-of-the-art graphics and Web design at the "pixel level" enabled them to quickly duplicate the CBS memos and demonstrate their likely origin on a very modern computer.
All of which brings me to my premise that the blogosphere isn't just a challenge to journalism in its currently stagnant state, but a potential boon to problem-solving of a higher order. The beauty of the blogosphere is that it is self-igniting, self-propelling and self-selecting, a sort of intellectual ecosystem wherein the best specimens from various disciplines descend from the ethers, converge on an issue and apply their unique talents.
Though virtually newborn, the blogosphere has blossomed exponentially in a matter of Earth-time seconds, from a few random voices to a mighty and diverse chorus of sometimes spectacular talent. Bloggers are the Big Bang of the Information Age.
It seems, therefore, not unreasonable to hope that as this new galaxy expands - with the best and brightest emerging as natural evolution commands - bloggers might apply their immense energy and collective intellect to solving an array of human problems.
Let's start with Iraq, shall we?
I can see Diaper Dan's future. I see pain and agony. I see him at the ranch in Crawford. I see a pick-up truck. I see a rope with one end around Rather's neck and the other tied to the rear bumper. I see GWB doing about 80mph. I see Cheney in the back of the truck. He's handing Bush another beer. WAIT I see Dick throwing an empty beer can at Rather as he tells him to go "F-HIMSELF"
SHADDAP, dammit, Kathleen! You're OUTING us!!
We need them to go on thinking we're just a gang of right-wing lunatic whackjobs, so they won't notice us planning the next stage of their demisE!!!!
< < DAmMIT... > >
January 10, 2005 CBS Memo Scandal Results in Firings (The National Ledger / Scribe Journal)
CBS News announced on Monday morning that it had asked three executives to step down and has fired producer Mary Mapes. The announcement was the result of a near four month investigation into a story that aired in September by CBS news anchor Dan Rather that claimed George W. Bush received preferential treatment in the Texas Air National Guard.
In part, the story was based on memos that were quickly challenged in the new media as fraudulent. Within minutes a poster on a Free Republic message board with the screen name of Buckhead made challenges to the authenticity of the memos. By the next morning several members of the blogosphere were dismantling the memos piece by piece. Michelle Malkin has a nice round up of the history of how the story was covered in the new media.
The fact that the story was discredited nearly instantly didn't seem to matter to Dan Rather who defended the story for 12 full days. He stubbornly refused to acknowledge his mistakes and still demanded that President Bush answer the "charges" even though the story was falling to pieces. From CBS, "The panel finds that once serious questions were raised, the defense of the segment became more rigid and emphatic, and that virtually no attempt was made to determine whether the questions raised had merit." That sounds about right as with each passing day Dan Rather appeared more partisan in defending the story. Whatever credibility he had left was now gone. The CBS network finally agreed to appoint this panel headed by Dick Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi to investigate exactly what went wrong in mid-September.
I've yet to read the entire 234 page report and digest it, but this conclusion by the panel seems accurate and devastating. The panel first states that CBS has a myopic zeal to be first with this "story" and then cites four factors that contributed to airing the flawed report. "The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles."
Michelle Malkin has the "10 defects identified by the investigative panel" posted:
--1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner;As it stands now it seems as the firing of Mary Mapes is a good thing. The three "suits" asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard's deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. I guess that was necessary but one troubling aspect of this report so far is the way CBS anchor Dan Rather skates with hardly any repercussions. He is currently overseas covering the aftermath of the tsunami for the network and will be presumably be on the TV sets of those who still watch CBS newscasts tonight. Mr. Rather is seen by many news observers as nothing more than a bitter partisan hack and he comes out of this pretty clean.
--2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment;
--3. The failure of 60 Minutes Wednesday management to scrutinize the publicly available, and at times controversial, background of the source of the documents, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett;
--4. The failure to find and interview the individual who was understood at the outset to be Lieutenant Colonel Burkett's source of the Killian documents, and thus to establish the chain of custody;
--5. The failure to establish a basis for the statement in the Segment that the documents "were taken from Colonel Killian's personal files";
--6. The failure to develop adequate corroboration to support the statements in the Killian documents and to carefully compare the Killian documents to official TexANG records, which would have identified, at a minimum, notable inconsistencies in content and format;
--7. The failure to interview a range of former National Guardsmen who served with Lieutenant Colonel Killian and who had different perspectives about the documents;
--8. The misleading impression conveyed in the Segment that Lieutenant Strong had authenticated the content of the documents when he did not have the personal knowledge to do so;
--9. The failure to have a vetting process capable of dealing effectively with the production speed, significance and sensitivity of the Segment; and
--10. The telephone call prior to the Segment's airing by the producer of the Segment to a senior campaign official of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry - a clear conflict of interest - that created the appearance of a political bias.
In fact, the report even makes mention that "the panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content." While a conclusion may not have been reached, it will take more than this to convince most that CBS is nothing more then a liberally biased dying old media dinosaur. That said, what I've read so far seems pretty devastating. More to come...
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