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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giving "60 Minutes" Credit--And Where It Leads

 UPDATE #2  Good news--the fine folks at McClatchy have done a  "line by line" review of the bogus Benghazi segment and released it just now, disclosing new problems with the report. 

UPDATE #1:   Longtime McClatchy reporter Nancy Youssef just tweeted: "CBS spokesman tells McClatchy that CBS is conducting a 'journalistic review' into its Oct. 27 60 Minutes report."  Now a CBS spokesman has told Mike Calderone at Huff Post, "The moment we confirmed there was an issue in our story we began a journalistic review that is ongoing."  Folks, I wouldn't applaud too loudly here.  This is not a full-blown internal review and certainly not an independent panel--and it sounds like it might be little more than their "journalistic review" last week after the NYT debunked their source.  "Journalistic review" could mean anything. 

Earlier today:  I've said a lot, and there's much left to be said, about media coverage of the "60 Minutes" bogus Benghazi report scandal.  But nothing peeves me more than prominent media writers/critics crediting CBS with offering a belated  apology/correction, of giving them "points" for it, even if they think it didn't go far enough.  I've seen this time and again in the past few days.

For example, Alicia Shepard, who has done great work in the past as media writer, editor, and ombud, in a piece at Columbia Journalism Review, called Lara Logan's apology last Friday "brave."   Last Friday, Erik Wemple at the Wash Post, wrote:  "Lara Logan this morning delivered a clinic on how a media organization should correct the record on faulty reporting...And with those words, about 10 tons of pressure drained from the Manhattan offices of '60 Minutes.'”  (Really?)  Tom Rosenstiel, longtime director of the  American Press Institute, has  called the "60 Minutes" correction highly unusual and so they deserve credit for that.  

Here's Rosenstiel on the PBS NewsHour last night:
CBS deserves credit for admitting that they made a mistake. That's unusual in broadcast. We don't see corrections on television in the course of normal activity. And mistakes are made all the time.
True, mistakes are often made.  But 1) not normally on the level of a completely false interview that forms the major part of a full segment on a hot political subject via the top-rated network news show and 2) now completely debunked, in a humiliating and high-profile way, by the two leading U.S. newspapers, the NYT and Wash Post.  

For veteran media critics to give CBS any credit whatsoever for pulling the story is disgraceful.  What other choice did "brave" Lara Logan and team have?  It is unfathomable to imagine them not offering at least the very brief apologies that did come.  So they deserve credit for that?  Saying so only blunts the strong criticism of what "60 Minutes" and the questions left unanswered. 

Again, Rosenstiel last night, when asked what CBS needs to do now:
[W]hat they owe us, what they owe the public is assurances that there -- that there isn't something that -- in their processes that will allow this to happen again.
They need to reassure the public, look, we understand what we did wrong, and it's not -- and -- and we have learned from this and it's not going to happen again. You can trust us in the future.
Of course, that does nothing.  That's the easiest thing to say:  It won't happen again (even though we won't tell you why it happened this time).  You can trust (but why?).  We've learned a lesson (such as?)  In fact, Lara Logan has already essentially done this in her 90-second statement on Sunday, assuring viewers that "truth" is still her show's highest goal.   The views of the Rosenstiels will only bolster the chances that, in fact, this sort of thing will happen again, and again.

And for the larger picture, let me again recommend Amy Davidson's post at The New Yorker late yesterday. 

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