Thursday, September 16, 2004

What was that frequency again?

Hi-De-Ho Rene!

Sorry for another lapse in postings on my part. I've enjoyed yours -- particularly the audioblogging. You're always the one on the cutting edge in this duo, partner.

So, I assume you've been following Rathergate.

Instead of focusing on the details of the "It's a Forgery!" vs. "No, it's Not, Because We Say So!" fight (I'll leave that to the Professor and Drudge), as a former journalist I've been wondering how CBS should have handled the situation publicly once questions about the document surfaced.

How they did handle it: CBS immediately issued a statement standing by its reporting and claiming that each of the documents "was thoroughly vetted by independent experts, and we are convinced of their authenticity." Rather said his source was "unimpeachable," but would not reveal the source (I guess that's what made the souce unimpeachable -- anonymity). Even now that Rather has backed down a little, the official CBS position is still that the documents are authentic.

In retrospect, we know that at least two of the document examiners CBS employed raised questions about the documents' authenticity, and that the main expert relied upon says he only examined the handwriting, so CBS was, in fact, aware of questions about them before any of its critics even knew about them.

So how should CBS have handled it?

I'll take a stab, with obviously limited information, and invite you and our readers to do the same. How about:

"While CBS News had received conflicting expert opinions regarding the authenticity of the documents in question, our reporting led us to conclude that the preponderance of the evidence was in favor of their authenticity. We regret not initially reporting that we had received contradictory opinions. We will continue to report this story, and will address any additional information that may arise regarding the documents as we investigate."

OK, it's not great, but if they'd led with that instead of, basically, "Our experts authenticated it!" when they knew that was not accurate, they'd be in a much better position to proceed. CBS should not have run with the documents, but finding itself in a hole like this, why does the Tiffany network continue to dig?



Blogger Rene said...


Hugh Hewitt is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. So... he enlists his readers to make LotR analogies to the Rathergate story... for far too many analogies from people with far too much time on their hands for people like me who are losing their minds on a Friday afternoon... go HERE.Excerpt to give you a taste:
Clearly it is Denethor accusing Aragorn of receiving preferential treatment based on information from Sauron sent via the palantir. The source can not be authenticated because it isn't known to everyone that Denethor Rather has the palantir, but he is certain his view is correct to the point of self-destruction and madness. Even though Aragorn proved himself in battle when he served as a Captain of Gondor, the fact that he was unwilling to go through the gates in 2980 proved he received special treatment and was not disciplined for it. Have a nice weekend,


2:19 PM  

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