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January 10, 2005

Black Rock Margaritaville

Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. CBS agrees-- it was all Mary Mapes' fault.

The Anchoress has an internal Les Moonves memo to CBS News, which scapegoats the entire affair on Mary Mapes. Sure, "mistakes were made" by others, and the "system broke down" -- that sort of crap, in which general errors are blamed upon no one at all -- but jot by tittle the memo places all active wrongdoing squarely on Mapes.

Is this fair? Well, certainly Mapes is guilty, and deserves to be canned. And to never work for a prominent, allegedly-unbiased news organization again. But I find it rather incredible that this one producer did so much wrong and yet no one in a thousand-man news division stopped her-- or even asked tough questions.

And so she dances at rope's end:

As far as the question of reporting is concerned, the bottom line is that much of the September 8th broadcast was wrong, incomplete or unfair. The Panel found that the producer of the segment, Mary Mapes, ignored information that cast doubt on the story she had set out to report - that President Bush had received special treatment more than 30 years ago, getting into the Guard ahead of many other applicants, and had done so to avoid service in Vietnam. As the Panel found, statements made by sources were ignored, as were notes in Mapes' own files. Most troubling, however, are the Panel's findings regarding Mapes' ongoing contention, later proven to be false, that the documents used in the story were authenticated and had been obtained from a "rock-solid" source who had established, in retrospect, a questionable chain of custody for them. The Panel also found that Mapes presented half-truths as facts to those with whom she worked. And they trusted her, relied on her impressive reputation and proven track record, and did not hold her to the high standards of accountability that have always been the backbone of CBS News reporting.

There are, of course, supposed to be institutional safeguards against over-eager reporters. In this case, the vetting process failed. On many occasions, Mapes and her team referred to the source of the now-discredited documents as unimpeachable and as someone "without an ax to grind" against President Bush. However, there was little or no attempt along the way to ascertain from the producers who that confidential source was. In the end, it turned out that this individual had a history on this story that should have been disclosed.

Just as bad was the process of authenticating the documents, as described in the Panel's report. Assured by Mapes that she had ample expert authentication of the documents, 60 Minutes Wednesday and CBS News management did little to seek affidavits from the handwriting experts. In fact, the people in charge of vetting the piece were never told that while four people were given some documents to authenticate the handwriting and the typography, two experts were discounted when they raised objections, and all four experts warned that documents could not be authenticated from Xeroxed copies.

The memo then goes on to explain that the other sacked employees didn't vet the story properly and didn't question Mapes hard enough, but again, Moonves lays all active wrongdoing at Mapes' feet.

And then, of course, he goes on to engage in rank apologism on behalf of Rather and Heyward.

You know, for an organization that surely prides itself on progressive thought in hiring and promotion, it sure seems they canned a lot of women and defended a lot of the Old Boys.

H/t to Roger Simon, who castigates the report for refusing to state the obvious-- these were a bunch of politically-motivated, Kerry-supporting liberal hacks out to do a hatchet job on Bush.

I guess it's a question of expectations. Did I *really* think that Daniel Okrent would expose the New York Times for the agenda-driven DNC-adjunct it is, just because he was appointed "Public Editor"? Of course not.

The media will never admit its liberal. Never. And no report prepared at the request of the media will ever admit that bias, either. Hell, normal, non-media liberals on the street won't admit they're liberal ("I have a lot of different views," they'll tell you, as your eyes drift over to their "Arms are made for hugging" bumper sticker), and it's just not realistic to expect the media to ever come clean about something they've been lying about for, oh, going on 40 years now.

Update: Defeat John John has a similar take, thinking it unrealistic that the media would ever actually admit to partisan conspiracy.

He's also got a funny cartoon on Colonel Killian's "Magic Typewriter."

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posted by Ace at 11:23 PM

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