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January 11, 2005

Good Think-Piece on Rathergate

Cedarford tips to this piece by the amateur (but paid) leftist webzine Slate. If Slate keeps this up, they'll be nearly as good as, say, the amateur unpaid citizen-journalists like Power Line:

CBS's remedy fit the usual blue-ribbon-panel-submits-its-definitive-report-and-the-news-organization-fires-the-errant-employees template, says Mark Feldstein, a former broadcast investigative reporter who now teaches at George Washington University's journalism school.

"The blame tends, like gravity, to trickle down, except for the need not to be too obvious about it," Feldstein writes via e-mail. "Hindsight makes the errors painfully glaring" and "the bosses that usually try to grab credit for the work of their underlings suddenly have amnesia about their own involvement in the process."

...

Although the review pretends that the Bush service story was an anomaly, a temporary unhinging of CBS News' high journalistic standards, anybody who has worked with investigative reporters will recognize the fact-shaving, source-buttering, and ethics-skirting practiced by Mapes and her colleagues. Investigative reporters are a different breed of human being, possessed of the absolute conviction that their wild hunches are provable. They're well-practiced at selectively quoting people and documents, overstating their case, and shamelessly revising their previous statements at a moment's notice if they believe it will serve their project. And that's no slam. Investigative reporters don't construct their stories from press handouts; they burrow into deep, dark, and dangerous terrain to uncover truths. If they weren't as resourceful at compromising reality, we'd have no investigative reporting at all.

Actually, it is a slam and should be taken at one. Perhaps Shafer is comfortable with the habit of journalists selectively quoting documents and people and hyping their thesis, while burying all evidence that undermines it; perhaps that's why he's working at an amateur leftist webzine.

I don't see how Shafer can justify dishonest reporting of the sort he details in order to "uncover truths." If what you're reporting is fundamentally dishonest and "juiced," how the hell can that be an "uncovered truth"?

He doesn't quite redeem himself here, but comes close:

Evidence of the reviewers' cluelessness comes when the panel assesses the CBS journalists for political bias and discovers none. I don't know that I've met more than four or five investigative journalists in my life who didn't wear their political biases on their flapping tongues. Almost to a one, they're suspicious (paranoid?) about corporate power, dubious about the intentions of governments, and convinced that at this very moment a secret meeting is being held somewhere in which a hateful conspiracy against the masses is being hatched. I won't provoke the investigative-journalist union by alleging that most of its members are Democrats or lefties, but aside from a few right-wing reporters sucking conservative teats inside the government, how many Republican investigative aces can you name?

Well, there's Steven Hayes. But only expressly-conservative mags will apparently hire him.

And of course there's John Stossel. But then, he's not really a Republican.

Still, many questions demand to be answered about this journalistic fiasco. Who moved the Bush service segment from its scheduled Sept. 29 slot to Sept. 8, forcing Mapes and company to "crash" the segment for broadcast? The report skims over this issue with passive language, asserting that "it was decided to move up the date" and the "decision was driven in significant part by competitive pressures. …"

Good question. These guys spent 100 days investigating this. I think they knew who ordered this; they just refused to say.

More kiss-up-to-your-employer bullshit... like this:

Also, the panel never resolves the fundamental question of whether the service documents were forgeries or not—a bit of a cheat if they charged three months of billable hours for their services.

If the Panel can't say with authority these documents are fraudulent, then liberals have to stop claiming they know the theory of evolution is true. The evidence that these documents were forgeries is overwhelming. There is no contrary evidence that they're genuine.

It was an act of shameless ass-kissing and boss-sucking to punt on the central issue in this investigation.

Mapes was taken in by a hoax, it seems, and the auteur of CNN's Operation Tailwind program was convinced by unreliable sources. No conflicting evidence, no matter how strong, was enough to shake the faith of either reporter. Tragically, neither seems to have learned in their careers that doubt, not certainty, is often an investigative reporter's best friend.

Remember-- these are alleged members of the reality-based community. They don't just believe fervently in kooky dogmas they know "in their hearts" are true, like you guys.

And By the Way: I didn't link it, because I figured most had read it, but Power Line is must reading on this, or even that, and maybe even on the other thing.


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posted by Ace at 08:39 PM

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