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View Full Version : Four people fired at CBS over Rather-Memo fiasco



jmcclain19
01-10-2005, 11:40 AM
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/10/national/main665727.shtml


CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story

(CBS) Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush’s National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with “rigid and blind” defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

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. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

The correspondent on the story, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, is stepping down as anchor of CBS Evening News.

“We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy,” said CBS President Les Moonves.

The panel said a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization’s internal standards.

The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic “Perfect Storm” had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.

"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," the report said.

The piece was aired during a tight and hotly contested presidential race between Mr. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. The timing of the story prompted charges of political bias against CBS News.

While the panel found that some actions taken by CBS News encouraged such suspicions, “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.”

The story, which aired last Sept. 8, relied on four documents allegedly written by one of Mr. Bush's Texas Air National Guard commanders in the early 1970s, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who is now dead. Questions about the authenticity of the documents were raised almost immediately.

After a stubborn 12-day defense of the story, CBS News conceded that it could not confirm the authenticity of the documents and asked former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.

Their findings were contained in a 224-page report made public on Monday. While the panel said it was not prepared to brand the Killian documents as an outright forgery, it raised serious questions about their authenticity and the way CBS News handled them.

The panel identified 10 serious defects in the preparation and reporting of the story that included failure to obtain clear authentication of the documents or to investigate controversial background of the source of the purported documents, retired Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett.

The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put Burkett in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.”

The panel noted that the Guard segment was rushed on the air only six days after 60 Minutes Wednesday had obtained some of the documents from Burkett and that preparation of the piece was supervised by a new management team of executive producer Howard and senior broadcast producer Murphy.

A key factor in the decision to broadcast the piece was a telephone conversation between Mapes and Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, Killian’s commanding officer. Mapes told the panel Hodges confirmed the content of the four documents after she read them to him over the phone.

Hodges, however, denied doing so. He also told the panel he had given Mapes information that should have raised warning flags about the documents, including his belief that Killian had never ordered anyone, including Mr. Bush, to take a physical.

Hodges said that when he finally saw the documents after the Sept. 8 broadcast, he concluded they were bogus and told Rather and Mapes of his opinion on Sept. 10.

“This alleged confirmation by Major General Hodges started to march 60 Minutes Wednesday into dangerous and ultimately unsustainable territory: the notion that since the content of the documents was felt to be true, demonstrating the authenticity of the documents became less important.”

Mapes’ telephone conversation with Hodges was part of a vetting process that the panel concluded was wholly inadequate, largely because it had to be done so quickly. The key executives vetting the piece were West, Howard, and Murphy.

After rushing the piece to air, the panel said, CBS News compounded the error by blindly defending the story. In doing so, the news organization missed opportunities to set the record straight.

“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,” the report concluded.

The panel believes a turning point came on Sept. 10, when CBS News President Andrew Heyward ordered Betsy West to review the opinions of document examiners who had seen the disputed documents and the confidential sources supporting the story.

But no such investigation was undertaken at that time.

“Had this directive been followed promptly, the panel does not believe that 60 Minutes Wednesday would have publicly defended the segment for another 10 days,” the report said.

The panel made a number of recommendations for changes, including:


Appoint a senior Standards and Practices Executive, reporting directly to the President of CBS News, who would review all investigative reporting, use of confidential sources and authentication of documents. Personnel should feel comfortable going to this person confidentially and without fear of reprisal, with questions or concerns about particular reports.


Foster an atmosphere in which competitive pressure is not allowed to prompt airing of reports before all investigation and vetting is done.


Allow senior management to know the names of confidential sources as well as all relevant background about the person needed to make news judgments.


Appoint a separate team, led by someone not involved in the original reporting, to look into any news report that is challenged.

Unassisted
01-10-2005, 12:26 PM
"Myopic Zeal" I love that turn of phrase and I agree that it fits this case.

I think that would apply to most sports fans, too. Maybe I should go copyright that phrase and put it on some t-shirts to sell?

Proposed new slogan for RedsZone: "Where myopic zeal goes to die." :mhcky21:

Steve4192
01-10-2005, 01:50 PM
The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put Burkett in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.”
Appearance of political bias? Appearance?

That just SCREAMS political bias. Leaking that source to the Kerry campaign before the story even went on the air could have stolen all their thunder if Kerry decided to go public with it ASAP. What could the Kerry campaign have contributed to the story? What could CBS have gained by leaking the info to Bush's political rival? Nothing. How many TV producers will risk a 'scoop' like that for no reason whatsoever?

It seems pretty clear that Mapes had a political agenda in mind when putting together this piece. The agenda may or may not have ended with Mapes, but her actions make it pretty clear that it was more than just an appearance of bias.

RedFanAlways1966
01-10-2005, 02:06 PM
Appearance of political bias? Appearance?

That just SCREAMS political bias. Leaking that source to the Kerry campaign before the story even went on the air could have stolen all their thunder if Kerry decided to go public with it ASAP. What could the Kerry campaign have contributed to the story? What could CBS have gained by leaking the info to Bush's political rival? Nothing. How many TV producers will risk a 'scoop' like that for no reason whatsoever?

It seems pretty clear that Mapes had a political agenda in mind when putting together this piece. The agenda may or may not have ended with Mapes, but her actions make it pretty clear that it was more than just an appearance of bias.

Absolutely correct, Steve. Mary Mapes was/is a known Bush-Hater. This is public knowledge at CBS and anyone who knows Mary will tell you that. I would say Kerry supporter, but she is driven by hatred for our president (not by love for Kerry). CBS should have known better than to let her handle this story. They know now and wear egg on their face b/c of it. It will take some time to regain the credibility that they once had b/c of this.

Real leftists will tell you the real truth though... Mary lost her job b/c our president and his economic plan sucks! ;)

Redsland
01-10-2005, 02:24 PM
Proposed new slogan for RedsZone: "Where myopic zeal goes to die." :mhcky21:
:MandJ:

RFS62
01-10-2005, 02:28 PM
"Where myopic zeal goes to die"


You sure you don't mean "Where myopic zeal goes to procreate"

flyer85
01-10-2005, 02:30 PM
It would be nice to get the real story of how this all happened. Maybe CBS could do an investigative report.

Rojo
01-10-2005, 04:52 PM
These days if a liberal does it, its news.

jmcclain19
01-10-2005, 07:17 PM
http://www.drudgereport.com

Drudge is saying that Rather is taking tonight off from the Anchor desk.

Odd timing

jmcclain19
01-10-2005, 07:25 PM
And I've always hated the common thought of the "liberal" bias in the media.

I've always felt it was "conflict" bias, rather than "liberal" bias. Problem is that in the last 30 years, those in power, power being the White House, has been a Republican. Even when Clinton was in the WH he had a strong GOP dominated House and Senate to deal with.

Anybody who sits and analyizes the news down to the word by word you can always find some evidence of bias. It's bias against power. Heard an interesting quote from a show about reporters on Fox, can't think of the name off the top of my head, and someone on that show said that all reporters need to fight with those in power. I disagree, but it certainly confirms what I felt when I was in the biz and now as an outsider looking in.

That's why I hate the political coverage by the mainstream media.

You have hours and pages devoted to the inside baseball and the behind the scenes manuvering as well as the inter campaign bickering, rather than coverage about whether or not what either of these two candidates were shoveling piles of BS. It's not substantive, it's fluff, easy to cover and is full of conflict.

Look at all the 2008 stories already popping up in the news. And Pres. Bush hasn't even been inaugurated yet. Why is that? Because potential 2008 candidates will be looking to distinguish themselves from Pres. Bush, and that means more conflict.

RedsBaron
01-10-2005, 07:30 PM
Too often the media prefers to cover the "horserace" between the candidates than the substance of the issues. The horserace is easier to cover I guess.

RBA
01-10-2005, 10:59 PM
DELETE

RBA
01-10-2005, 11:13 PM
Delete. Have fun.