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Monday, November 11, 2013

Journalists Hit "60 Minutes" Stonewall

After last night's 90-second "apology" by Lara Logan on 60 Minutes--the show spent more time on photos of the Beatles with their wives in 1964--it's certain that CBS wants to turn the page.  An insider even confirmed this was the case, according to the NYT.  No internal or independent probe.  No disciplining of reporter or producer.  Clearly CBS is terrified of where a probe might lead--for example, IDing why they did this story in the first place and didn't vet their source.  (See my piece at The Nation on the CBS News chief's background as honcho at Fox News throughout the Bush years--and Lara Logan revealing her own bias last year.)

Only a strong push from other journalists will force CBS to launch such an investigation and discipline staff and producer.   I'll log below what key journos are saying.  Many are making strong statements, although some are still giving CBS points for making any sort of limited apology--as if they could not do that after their source was thoroughly discredited.  Others are presuming--with no evidence that I've seen--that CBS will make a much longer statement later.

Mike Calderone, who has been on this since beginning, with list of unanswered questions at Huff Post.  For starters:  "Sunday's brief acknowledgment didn't resemble a news program seriously trying to get to the bottom of how it got duped. Logan didn't address during the show how Davies came to be a source for '60 Minutes,'  the vetting process of his account, whether the FBI was contacted during the original reporting or after doubts were raised, and the connection between the television booking on Oct. 27 and publication by a CBS subsidiary on Oct. 29."

Calderone also noticed that the NYT has now dropped from its original piece last night that CBS exec said this would be their final word on this matter.   But Brian Stelter, who co-wrote the story, just tweeted to me that this was "inadvertent" and "I'm asking the web folks to restore the graf for the web version of the story."

Brian Stelter  on TV today raises question I have asked:  Did Lara Logan come in with "an agenda"?  And why did it take so long to react and will they probe?   This may be "in some ways worse" than the Dan Rather affair but those charging "liberal bias" louder than critics on the left. Alex Jones of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard told The Guardian hit “the least of mea culpas for what was a real reporting debacle. 60 Minutes is very high-profile and it gave the Benghazi report a lot of attention -- so I think they have more of a problem than just saying sorry.”

Jay Rosen:  "Two outstanding features of the 60 Minutes correction: written in the passive voice, edits out the role played by other news organizations."  Frank Rich:  "Failure of to report how Lara Logan was duped for 'a year' (her claim) by a Benghazi hoax guarantees others will do it for them."  Dan Kennedy: "Pathetically inadequate."  Mike Signorile:  "60 Minutes 'apology' — or 'mistake,' as Logan put it— is pathetic. Needs full investigation, ramifications."  Gabriel Sherman: "A show w/ reporting legacy of 60 Minutes should have turned its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why."  Roger Simon of Politico:  "60 Minutes needs to do an 'Anatomy of a Mistake' piece on its Benghazi story, not just a 'gee, we're sorry' mini-apology....In 2004, CBS had independent review panel headed by Dick Thornburgh investigate its mistakes. Why no panel this time?"  Marvin Kalb, also at Politico:  An apology not enough.  "CBS News remains an immensely important resource, but it has now suffered an avoidable setback at a time when all of the media is under a cloud of doubt and suspicion. The network must regain the credibility it lost in Benghazi."

Terence Smith, the former CBS and PBS correspondent, told the Washington Post that CBS needs “to do a thorough reconstruction of their reporting . . . and assure us that this was not done to help sell books for Simon & Schuster."   Logan, he said, “has major egg on her face.”

David Folkenflik of NPR:  "CBS gets points for a) apology b) not using own airwaves vs critics, as Rather did amid Bush memo fiasco. But concerns remain. CBS needs to offer transparent account of how the process went off the rails. Has not happened yet."  Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo"I just watched the 60 Minutes "correction"/apology tonight and thought was pretty amazing for its brevity, lack of substance and general obfuscation... If you'd come to this 90 seconds without knowing anything that had happened over the last couple weeks, you would probably think that one person interviewed in a 60 Minutes segment may have been misleading in some of the things he said.Good update by ace blogger Digby, though she seems to be okay with Lara Logan not getting suspended.  Michael Moore:  "You can tell the media is liberal by the way CBS fired Lara Logan but never did anything to Dan Rather."  David Corn: "60 Minutes also notes its report that Barack Obama was the Umbrella Man in Dallas on 11/22/63 was a mistake."

Kevin Drum lists unanswered questions and adds: I'm afraid that CBS no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Someone there needs to demonstrate that they actually care about accuracy these days, rather than treating a huge fraud as a minor issue requiring only a short correction. And Lara Logan, who reported the story, and Jeff Fager, who is both CBS News chairman and the executive producer of 60 Minutes, really need to be held more accountable for both the story itself and their response to its obvious problems after it aired.

Eric Boehlert:  "fact CBS won't open up shop to independent review just proves how terrified execs R of truth behind Benghazi fiasco coming out." (More from him here.)  Will Bunch:  "So '60 Minutes' apology totally inadequate -- now what? We know CBS is terrified of right wingers...they need to be terrified of rest of us."  David Brock of Media Matters: “This evening's '60 Minutes' response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean" and appoint independent panel to probe. Jeff Greenfield: "Will CBS investigate and make results public, as it and other nets did in past? So far this is a 'modified limited hangout.'" Blake Hounshell: "mistakes were made...."  Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones:  "apology is weak. Not covered: promoting source pubbed by CBS imprint run by Mary Matalin. Or failure to check w/ FBI sources."  John McQuaid, a Forbes blogger:  "At this point, more shoes would have to drop to force any further accounting from CBS. They must think that’s not going to happen."

Craig Silverman of Regret the Error commented for the NYT:  “Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar. There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed.  In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News.  In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”  He also produced a valuable comparison of Dan Rather and Lara Logan "60 Minutes" scandals. 

Jay Rosen added a second comment at his blog:  "Attention now turns to Jeff Fager, as the person at CBS (executive producer of '60 Minutes’) who approved the final cut of a deeply flawed report starring a source CBS knew to have lied to his employer, and the executive at CBS, boss of the news division, who decided that it was time to move on from that mistake. Can that conflict of interest stand? So far it looks like it will."  Michael Wolff naturally claims Jay's post is only for the "conspiracy-minded."

Media Matters collects comments from six others, including Michael Getler and Ed Wasserman, here


Syrbal/Labrys said...

That "apology" was so short, I literally missed it when leaving the set to take care of a pet briefly.

Way to go, CBS....or not.

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