One part I find funny is there reference to the blogosphere with "the so-called blogosphere." They were not able to determine political agenda of those involved because they say this is subjective, yet they were able to label commentary by Powerline, and Little Green Footballs as having a "conservative agenda." While the conservative aim of these blogs in undeniable so is the aim of CBS news.
The short version of the report is that the problems were caused by zeal and competition
These problems were caused primarily by a myopic zeal to be the first news organization to broadcast what was believed to be a new story about President Bush’s TexANG service, and the rigid and blind defense of the Segment after it aired despite numerous indications of its shortcomings\
The report tries to make this point by in part blaming associate producer Yvonne Miller late in the game and who had not previously worked with Mary Mapes. The report also tries to make the case that it was Mapes and Miller’s inexperience with document examination that also lead to mistakes. This excuse is just plain an excuse. One of the examiners saying that the signatures on the memos and in Bush’s TANG records had “consistent inconsistencies" that led him to believe that the signatures were from the same person. The fact is that all four document examiners said that they could not authenticate the documents since they were copies. This should have been enough to eliminate the documents from consideration and since Mapes and Miller had no experience in this field they should have relied on their experts.
If zeal and competition were the only real factors then why did it only affect this one story. They are always competing against other news outlets and you would think they would have zeal for all they cover.
In the section on obtaining the documents it says that Burkett handed some of the documents to Mapes and Michael Smith, a freelance journalist from Texas, on September 2nd. The other documents were provided three days later and were apparently faxed from a Kinko’s in Abilene, Texas. Since they were personally handed some of the documents it also shows that even then they were not handed originals and their deterioration was not due just to a fax machine. That Burkett only handed them copies in the first place should have set off alarm bells. It also seems strange that at this face to face meeting that not all the memos were delivered to them at once. Did Burkett need to create some new documents since the ones he gave them at first didn’t go far enough in their accusations?
The report states that the Panel was not able to reach a definitive conclusion as to the authenticity of the Killian documents. It is interesting that it mentions that Mapes made presentation to the Panel to try to prove that in fact the memo’s were genuine. This attempt was done even after all the facts made by document experts and others overwhelmingly showed that the documents were forgeries. She was in no rushed time line at this junction and by now was much better informed about document examinations. So with all the evidence that the memos were forged and with the fact that Killian’s family members claimed that he never kept memo’s at home Mapes persisted in claiming them to be genuine.
"The question of whether a political agenda played any role in the airing of the Segment is one of the most subjective, and most difficult, that the Panel has sought to answer. The political agenda question was posed by the Panel directly to Dan Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, who appear to have drawn the greatest attention in terms of possible political agendas. Both strongly denied that they brought any political bias to the Segment. The Panel recognizes that those who saw bias at work in the Segment are likely to sweep such denials aside. However, the Panel will not level allegations for which it cannot offer adequate proof.
The Panel does not find a basis to accuse those who investigated, produced, vetted or aired the Segment of having a political bias. The Panel does note, however, that on such a politically charged story, coming in the midst of a presidential campaign in which military service records had become an issue, there was a need for meticulous care to avoid any suggestion of an agenda at work. The Panel does not believe that the appropriate level of care to avoid the appearance of political motivation was used in connection with this story."
So this is the result of an investigation? If they were investigating a murder and they asked the murderer if they did it and they replied in the negative by this standard they would be let go. There was plenty of evidence that the reporting of this story was lead by political convictions. Mary Mapes spent five years off-and-on this story and at the end of it all she really had for evidence was forged memos from a highly questionable source. The other question is why work so long on a story that even if true would only prove special treatment. They had no similar outcry of Sen. Gore’s father influence in his son Al being a journalist in the Army during Vietnam with a shortened tour of duty.
It also appears that she withheld information from vetters at CBS as to the problems with Burkett and the qualms that the document examiners had. She also oversold them as to Major General Hodge confirmation (over the phone without seeing them) of the content of the documents. They also say the story was rushed to beat the competition, yet provide no evidence of other news organizations were competing for this story. It is true that there was a deadline for them. The deadline was that the story had to appear before election day. So with all the evidence to the contrary they dismiss the story as not a political act. The report minimizes the contact with the Kerry campaign by saying "it gave the appearance of a political bias." There is also a conflict in the stories with what Mapes told the panel and what Joe Lockhart said. This pattern is repeated throughout the report of Mapes’ testimony differing significantly from others. They would also have us believe that the Democrats Fortunate Son campaign that broke out at the same time and even used some of the material from the CBS report was just a coincidence. The plain fact is that this story was a political campaign commercial from the beginning and was ran so as to affect the outcome of the presidential race.
Do they really want to assert that if a questionable source had handed Mary Mapes copies of memos that shed a negative light on John Kerry’s military career that the results would have been the same?
The paragraph titled "The Involvement of Dan Rather" is real short and starts off by excusing Dan for his involvement by saying he " was working extremely long hours" and paying attention to Hurricane Frances. So Dan Rather the man who wants to be known a more then just a news reader gets a pass for ardently defending the story even after the facts came out. He is allowed to ride off into the sunset as if he was totally blameless for this episode.
With the problems the report detailed you almost wonder why four people even got fired. If the problems really were only document authentication, vetting process, interviewing of witnesses, and a strident defense; then why fire anyone? Just hire someone in a new job position, put through some more rules, and process changes and then everything is hunky-dory.
Another part of the report I found funny was "The stated goal of CBS News is to have a reputation for journalism of the highest quality." I would have thought that the stated goal of a news organization would be to have the highest quality journalism and not just a reputation for that.
The problem with CBS news is not just this one incident and the people involved. This is only one symptom of how they gave conducted the news. 60 Minutes provided much airtime to authors of books critical to President Bush (mainly ones Viacom had a financial interest in) and provided no stories of books critical of John Kerry. The suggestions for improvements the report recommends will have no real impact since the report does not address the real underlying problems at CBS. That there is no balance in their reporting and that diversity of political opinions in their newsroom is almost non-existent. Sure CBS will now staff a new position for Standards and Practices and some rule changes. CBS news and other news outlets will continue to bleed viewer because everybody but this panel can see how the news is biased and politically motivated.
Hugh Hewitt comments on the end of the report.
"Inevitably, some inside and outside CBS News will fault a few, if not many, of the Panel’s findings and conclusions. We will have been too tough, too easy, intrusive, timid, unfair, naïve, gullible or more. This is not a simple story, but we are confident that we have told it fully and fairly."
"Too tough?" With a punt on the central question of the controversy? CBS got what it wanted –a slap on the wrist, an apparent wrap-up with the dismissal of some underlings. The culture of undisclosed bias gets a pass, and the obvious corruption of the "news" process in the service of the Democratic Party is classified as "unknowable" because Dan Rather and Mary Mapes said they weren’t partisans? What a joke, as transparent a whitewash as the documents were forgeries.