updated 9/21/2004 11:20:15 AM ET 2004-09-21T15:20:15

Guests: Tom Jarriel, Hugh Downs, David Blum, Robert Greenwald, Jeff Jarvis

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  A black eye for CBS.  The network admits “60 Minutes” was wrong.  The National Guard documents about President Bush were fake, and Dan Rather apologizes.  How could this have happened?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  Did then Lieutenant Bush fulfill all of his military commitments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was clearly not a story that was going to hold up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Were the warning signs ignored?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  These are serious questions that have been raised, and they ought to be looked into.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Tonight, the document dilemma has taken on a life of its own and has left a lasting impression on the credibility of the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CBS NEWS:  ... how we make sure that the checks and balances are in place so that something like this doesn‘t happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Twelve days after first airing a story questioning President Bush‘s National Guard service during the Vietnam war, CBS News now says it was misled.  The “60 Minutes” story showed documents purportedly written by Bush‘s squadron leader, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.  Those memos claimed that he was under pressure to sugarcoat Bush‘s service record after Bush was grounded for failing to take a physical.  The authenticity of the documents was immediately challenged.  Some say they couldn‘t have been written by typewriters that existed in the 1970s, but only by more modern word processors.

CBS kept defending the story until today, when CBS News president Andrew Heyward issued this statement.  Quote, “Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report.  We should not have used them.  That was a mistake, which we deeply regret.”

CBS News anchorman Dan Rather reported the story for “60 Minutes,” and he was also defending that story until today.  This is what he said on tonight‘s “CBS Evening News.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR:  The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly fully scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so.  It was a mistake.  CBS News deeply regrets it.  Also, I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry.  CBS News president Andrew Heyward has ordered an independent investigation to examine the process by which the report was prepared.  The results of that investigation will be made public.  This was an error made in good faith, as we tried to carry on the CBS News tradition of asking tough questions and investigating reports.  But it was a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  This weekend, Rather interviewed retired Texas National

Guard official Bill Burkett, who says CBS provided the disputed documents -

·         who CBS says provided those disputed documents and who CBS now says admits deliberately misleading them.  CBS also ran a portion of its interview with Burkett on tonight‘s “Evening News.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BURKETT:  I didn‘t totally mislead you.  I did mislead you on the one individual.  You know, your staff pressured me to a point to reveal that source.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  White press secretary Scott McClellan reacted to the CBS admission today.  Here‘s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  We have seen a number of serious questions have been raised by experts and by media organizations, and now, finally, CBS is acknowledging that the crux of their story was based on information that was likely forged and came from a discredited source.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Before we get to tonight‘s panel of guests, we want to give you a Timeline which outlines the story.  First off, on September 3, CBS News first obtained the document saying President Bush had received that preferential treatment while he was in the National Guard.  Five days later, on September 8, CBS “60 Minutes” Wednesday edition aired the story.  And the next day, September 9, Lieutenant Colonel Killian‘s widow and son said he never wrote those memos.

September 10, CBS News president, Andrew Heyward, and anchorman Dan Rather defended the story and continued to defend until today.  On September 12, the former National Guard commander who CBS said helped it authenticate those documents, Major General Bobby Hodges, said that he was misled by CBS and that he now believed those documents were forgeries.  Then, on September 15, Lieutenant Colonel Killian‘s former secretary said she never typed those memos but that the information in them was correct.  Also September 15, in a radio interview, first lady Laura Bush said that the documents were probably forgeries.

And today, CBS admitted that it cannot verify the authenticity of these documents.

Joining me now to discuss the CBS admission are former ABC News correspondent Tom Jarriel.  Also with us tonight, documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald.  He made the documentary about the Fox News Channel entitled “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch‘s War on Journalism.”  A veteran of more than 50 years in broadcasting, we‘re also joined by the former co-anchor of ABC‘s “20/20,” Hugh Downs.  Also tonight, David Blum, the author of “Tick, Tick, Tick: The Long Life and Turbulent Times of “‘60 Minutes.‘”  He also teaches at Columbia University‘s graduate school of journalism.  And rounding out our panel, Jeff Jarvis.  He is the founder of “Entertainment Weekly” magazine, now a media critic for various publications and recently the founder of Buzzmachine.com.

And I want to thank all of you for being here.  Tom, I want to start with you first, though, because you‘re the one who‘s been spending more time in those journalistic trenches, digging the stories out there.  Help us understand how it is conceivable that a story Dan Rather says they‘ve been working on for five years, they have the key document for only five days, and then they jump on the air.  Isn‘t that a rush to air?

TOM JARRIEL, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Deborah, first of all, let me say I think CBS is the gold standard of American broadcasting.  Dan Rather and Andrew Heyward are top-flight people.  But to me, this is one of the most mystifying cases ever.  This should have never gotten on the air.  Checking documents is so basic.  They should have never rushed it.  Documents can be checked for their age and their authenticity.  They were dealing with a two-timing snake-type guy in this guy Burkett.  He had been trying to sell this information to the Kerry campaign.  They wouldn‘t listen to him.  He then went to the Georgia senator who had contacts in the campaign, didn‘t make any headway.

And lo and behold, with CBS “60 Minutes,” they listen to him.  They don‘t check out very thoroughly with others what he is doing.  These standards were sophomoric, at best, and probably not even at that level.  And I‘m surprised.

NORVILLE:  Tom, I got to tell you, if this is the gold standard for journalism in this country, then we‘re all in a heap of trouble.  You cannot say CBS News and the way it has conducted itself with this story is a standard that anyone in any journalism program would want to adhere to.

JARRIEL:  Not in this story.  I‘m telling you what an exception this is in their overall reporting, hard-hitting news, sound journalism measures.  It is just unbelievable they could go from that level of being what I consider the absolute best to this level of reporting a story in a political climate like it is and not checking it out any further and considering the damage this can because a campaign.

NORVILLE:  There are so many points about which your jaw just drops.  And as a person who‘s been doing this for two-and-a-half decades, I am astonished by this chain of events.  But I have to say, Tom, how is it possible that the key source on which one is hanging these documents—not the man who presented them, but the guy who was authenticating, Mr. Hodges, saying, yes, that‘s the stuff, that you would read this over the telephone and not take the time to either fly him to the papers or fly the papers to him?

JARRIEL:  This story was not very clearly vetted.  It was not gone into by those who were in charge of it, the producers on the lower level, those who were working the copy and the information, the contacts.  Any of these things should have turned up suspicions that this was a bad story.  I think that almost anyone who has much experience would have smelled this out almost right away and said, Hey, look, we‘re dealing with a guy who has political interests here.  We‘ve got to really tread carefully.

This should have been looked at long and carefully, and not by Dan Rather or those immediately handling the story.  You get involved in a story and you get a passion to get it on the air.  You want it to be right.  You check as best you can.  But this did involve a great deal of work in the trenches.  I don‘t know how long they worked on it.  It looked like something they put together in a couple of days to me.

NORVILLE:  Yes, it did.  Hugh Downs...

JARRIEL:  But this was not carefully prepared.

NORVILLE:  Hugh, you‘ve been at ABC and many television networks for many years.  You‘ve been there when the big stories have happened.  You‘ve been there at ABC when stories blew up in that network‘s face.  What didn‘t CBS do, from where you sit, that should have been done that would keep them from being in this very uncomfortable position they‘re in right now?

HUGH DOWNS, FORMER CO-ANCHOR, ABC NEWS “20/20”:  Well, what Tom said. 

You know, checking it out, that‘s all-important.  And we always did that.  As an on-air person, you have to rely on your researchers and producers and other people who—you can‘t check out everything or you wouldn‘t need those people.

NORVILLE:  Right.

DOWNS:  And I think this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not done because it was a—again, maybe a pressure of competition.  If they had these documents and they didn‘t want to sit on them too long and sort of believed it, they rushed it on.  And that was a terrible mistake.  It‘s going to have a bad effect, I think, on journalism.

NORVILLE:  David Blum, talk to me about the pressure of competition, the fact that someone else out there might have been working on a similar story and CBS felt them breathing down their neck.  Is that an acceptable excuse?

DAVID BLUM, AUTHOR, “THE LONG LIFE AND TURBULENT TIMES OF “‘60

MINUTES‘”:  Well, no, not at all.  And what happened here, too, is that Dan Rather has been, you know, in ratings trouble for a while.  He‘s obviously a top-flight journalist, as Tom Said, and it‘s a great network.  But the fact is, he‘s in trouble.  He‘s always wanting to get out in front on every story.  And this was a case where I think he just tried to get too far out in front too fast and it blew up in his face.  And his apology tonight really—all he basically said was, “I‘m sorry.”  He didn‘t say what he was sorry for, and I think that was a significant omission.

NORVILLE:  I‘m sorry this happened, and I‘m the guy in the cross-hairs!  That‘s what he‘s sorry about~!

BLUM:  How about, I‘m sorry I said for 10 days that the story was true?  How about, I‘m sorry, you know, we put an anonymous source on the—we trusted an anonymous source who had a clear bias, we broke every journalism 101 rule?

NORVILLE:  Robert Greenwald, you have done a documentary that looked very closely at the perceived bias by one television network.  You‘ve seen the criticisms that some have lodged against Dan Rather.  Is it possible that he was a witting accomplice to a political agenda?

ROBERT GREENWALD, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER:  No.  That‘s impossible.  I mean, there‘s a long history of Mr. Rather, of the work he‘s done, of the stories he‘s broken on all sides of the political spectrum.  He made a mistake.  It was a bad mistake.  It was in the public eye.  It shouldn‘t have happened, but it did.

And I personally thought the apology, from a sort of director point of view, seemed very heartfelt, very emotional and very sincere.  He had nothing to gain by doing something like this because he doesn‘t—unlike Fox News, he does not have a partisan political agenda day in and day out.

NORVILLE:  Well, he may not have a partisan political thing day in, day out, but he certainly had to do a mea culpa three years ago, when he attend a Texas Democratic fund-raiser and was criticized, even within his own network, for doing so.

GREENWALD:  Yes, he was criticized for that.  And I would hope that that standard would apply to all networks, all journalists.  And I think, though, that if you look at his record—and I‘m not here to defend him, he can certainly do a very good job himself—again, it was a mistake tonight.  It was a bad one.

But the thing that concerns me even more, Deborah, if you want to widen the discussion, is it‘s kind of indicative of what‘s happened to a lot of the media, where the small thing gets focused on and the bigger picture gets lost.  Now, I don‘t know the solution to that in a competitive world where ratings are at stake, where sponsors are driving the issues, but it certainly seems to me, as someone who loves news, loves the truth, loves documentaries, we are seeing the tree take over for the forest, and therefore, losing the big picture, you know, what happened over the long period of time to Bush in the year et cetera, et cetera, no matter what your politics are.

NORVILLE:  As they say, the devil‘s in the details, and in this case, that‘s really true in this story.  There‘s a question about the experts that were brought in by CBS News.  Emily Will from North Carolina, a document expert, said she found serious problems with the documents, found five examples in which she was uncertain about the signatures.  They didn‘t match up.  She also wondered about the superscript, the way the “th” gets small.  That‘s not something typewriters did back in the ‘70s.

She called the network on September 7, the day the network was beginning to publicize this story, and said she had some serious questions.  By then, the promotion was going on.  CBS didn‘t get back to her, she says.  Linda James, from Plano, Texas, another document authenticator, said that she needed to see the originals.  She says that CBS promised that those would come, but reportedly, they never did.

And in fact, Jeff Jarvis, it was not another news organization like ABC, NBC, “The Times,” “The Post,” but webloggers who initially broke these questions.

JEFF JARVIS, MEDIA CRITIC:  This is an awful day for CBS.  It‘s a Bad day for journalism, but it‘s a good day for the truth.  It means that citizens are now recognized as holders of the truth, too.  It‘s not just the priesthood of journalism, who thinks, We own the truth, and nobody else knows how to do it.  Now this is evidence that a citizen two hours later on a forum can say, Well, that looks fishy to me, and somebody else two hours later takes it in Microsoft Word.  The citizens are as smart as the journalists, and it‘s time for the journalists...

NORVILLE:  But hold on a second!

JARVIS:  ... to recognize that.

NORVILLE:  The citizens are smarter?  You think a journalist couldn‘t sit there with their Microsoft Word, type the thing out...

JARVIS:  Amen!

NORVILLE:  ... and print it 15 times and...

JARVIS:  Which is all the more shocking!

NORVILLE:  ... make it look the same?

JARVIS:  Dan Rather should have said immediately, Thank you.  We‘re going to own the story, and we‘re going to own the truth.  And what he did instead was try to own the story and stonewalled for two weeks.  And that‘s inexcusable.

NORVILLE:  All right.  Well, we‘re going to take a mini-stonewall.  It‘s called commercials.  But we will be right back.  More with my guests in a moment, as we take a look at where CBS went wrong along the way.  Stay tuned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CBS NEWS:  Nobody likes to have this—this happen to them, but I think that we‘re all looking at it from the standpoint of what‘s important now is what we do next, how we correct the situation, how we make sure that the checks and balances are in place, so that something like this doesn‘t happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER:  Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it, the major thrust of our report, that George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard and, once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was Dan Rather this past Wednesday on “60 Minutes,” defending his report.

Back with former ABC News correspondent Tom Jarriel, documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, former ABC News anchor Hugh Downs, author David Blum and media critic Jeff Jarvis.

I got to say, when I hear that, part of me goes, OK, they didn‘t challenge what we said, but they are challenging the documents on which we based it.  Does he not get it, Jeff?

JARVIS:  He doesn‘t get it.  That‘s the problem here.  And I think what we‘re going to find is that this is a momentous event in journalism.  I think we‘re going to find that now that citizens have blogs—and for those who don‘t know what blogs are, it‘s the world‘s easiest publishing tool.  Anybody—you, anybody—in 30 minutes, you can be up, publishing to the whole world.  So now when have a story to tell, you can tell it.  You don‘t have to own the broadcast tower or the printing press.  And now Dan Rather isn‘t the holder of the truth.  In fact, he isn‘t at all.  And anybody can call him on it.  And I think that‘s good for our business, but the Dan Rathers of the world don‘t.  That‘s why he stonewalled for two weeks of this!

NORVILLE:  But yet the networks do have standards and vetting processes.  And while it may have fallen...

JARVIS:  And it worked really well here, didn‘t it!

NORVILLE:  Well, it didn‘t work here, but Hugh Downs, I know you‘re desperate to get in on this.

DOWNS:  No, I just want to say what I think is going to happen—to people broadcasting now, the inhibiting factor is appalling.  When you think that—this is not exactly parallel, but in the days when Tom Jarriel and I were on “20/20,” right after ABC got sued for $10 billion and settled for $10 million by a tobacco company, the—immediately, when we would do—we would tape maybe a couple of hours in advance and do spontaneous conversations.

And once a month, on average, two lawyers or three lawyers would pile out of the control room and say, Gee, we hate to ask, but you‘ve got to redo that because you used a superlative instead of a comparative, and that might be actionable.  Suddenly, we began to feel—to try to redo a spontaneous conversation is not that easy.  And I began to feel like I was in a straitjacket.  This kind of thing is inhibiting, and it may—it may continue to shrink the horizon of people who are trying to do a job on the air.

NORVILLE:  Tom, do you think it‘s going to have a chilling effect?  I should think that viewers would be thrilled to know that folks are making sure that the I‘s are dotted and the T‘s are crossed.

JARRIEL:  I think the way they‘re managing it at the present time, it can have a chilling effect because I‘m still not sure they get it, down to and including Dan‘s explanation tonight on the air.  This is a story that they continue to try to sell as possibly true.  This is a story that they say, Maybe the source was no good, well, we admit the documents were no good, but they need to say, This story was not good, and it should have never been on the air, period.  Otherwise, the lingering damage to them and also the damage the story might cause remains there, leaving any indication whatsoever that this was true.

They‘re like—they‘re like a dog hold onto a bad bone.  They should have—the day after this aired, have seen through it and said, We should have never put this on the air.  Do not take anything in this story as being accurate because the basic core of the story, the documents, were no good.  Period.  Over and done with.

NORVILLE:  David, you‘ve studied the culture at CBS “60 Minutes”

BLUM:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... in your new book.  Is that something that is even in the DNA of “60 Minutes” to be able to do that, to say the next day, Whoa, we blew it big time?

BLUM:  Not really.  I mean, one of the problems, with deference to the great Hugh Downs and yourself, for that matter, Network news stars tend to start to think of themselves as infallible.  It‘s just the nature of the beast when you‘re on television every night or every week.

NORVILLE:  Hugh Downs is infallible, OK?

BLUM:  Yes.  OK.  I‘ll grant you that.

NORVILLE:  We will—we will grant that right there!

(LAUGHTER)

BLUM:  I‘ll grant that.

NORVILLE:  This man is a legend.  He‘s infallible.

BLUM:  But some of the others...

NORVILLE:  I‘ll take the hit.

BLUM:  ... and Dan Rather included, they are fallible, but they forget that after a certain point.  After 30, 40 years of being on television, of being on the cover of “Time” magazine, of being constantly told how great they are, it‘s very hard to admit you‘re wrong.  But it‘s the right thing to do when you are.  And that‘s the huge mistake that‘s been made here.

NORVILLE:  But Jeff, there are executives who don‘t have the mega-salaries, who don‘t get on the cover of “Time,” and they do have the ability to say, You‘re wrong.  So it wasn‘t only Dan Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes.

JARVIS:  No, it wasn‘t, and it was the executives who are at fault here, too, because there is a perception by many that Dan Rather is biased.  Well, this only fuels that.  The stakes were higher here.  This is the middle of an election.  What bothers me, too, is this whole story, and the swifties and Michael Moore all come out of mud-slinging and not good campaign coverage.  So this was just another attack on someone, on supposedly character, which is really a way to cloak mud, and that‘s all it came out of, was an attempt to do a character assassination of Bush, when we should be covering issues.

It‘s not a good story for journalism, beginning to end.  And I‘m a journalist, and I hate that, but as a weblogger, I‘m happy to see now that the citizens can be part of the fix.  If we can work together, we can fix this.

NORVILLE:  It would be a good story if it were borne out by fact that there were...

JARVIS:  I can name a lot of stories...

NORVILLE:  ... actual...

JARVIS:  ... that would be great...

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Sure.

JARVIS:  ... if they were true!

NORVILLE:  If you had the facts to prove it.  But Robert Greenwald, I wonder if documentaries like yours, “Outfoxed,” Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and there‘s been so many this year that have a very clear point of view—if that hasn‘t encouraged the kind of pointed reporting that “60 Minutes” got caught being wrong on.

GREENWALD:  Well, if my documentary, “Outfoxed”...

NORVILLE:  And I don‘t mean you personally.

GREENWALD:  ... influenced...

NORVILLE:  But the idea.

GREENWALD:  No, no.  But I‘ll be a very happy camper if you tell me that “Outfoxed” influenced Dan Rather in any shape or form, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GREENWALD:  And I‘ll take that right now, Deborah, because you are infallible, in my point of view.  No, I think that—look, we‘re in an environment, as you well know, and we‘ve discussed this, where news has become more and more competitive.  At the same time, resources are being cut, you know, and we‘re seeing—I just looked up a few statistics.  Crime stories have gone six times bigger in the last few years.  On cable news, 68 percent of what we see is old stories recycled.  News bureaus have cut half their foreign, overseas bureaus.  So at the same time we want more news, because of the way the system is working, we‘re cutting the resources.

I think that is the real tragedy and one of the things we all really need to look at because nothing is more critical in a democracy than how we get our news.  Look, that‘s why I spent six months studying Fox News.  I really believe in this big-time.  CBS made a mistake today, bad mistake. 

Time to move on.  But time to look at the bigger issues.  And why do we all

·         all of us, myself included—keep getting caught up in this small part of it, rather than the large picture?

NORVILLE:  Yes, well, maybe we need to move on, but CBS stayed stuck on square one for a very long time.  This is Dan Rather from “The Evening News” on September 10, three days after the story broke, two days after the hoopla began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER:  Today on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story.  They allege that the documents are fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That reminded me of Hillary Clinton, Tom Jarriel, sitting on “The Today Show” with Matt Lauer talking about that vast right-wing conspiracy.

JARRIEL:  Well, it‘s there, and I think Dan and everybody at CBS is probably feeling the heat.  I don‘t think it‘s the majority, by any means, but the vocal group that is out to try to convince the majority that CBS is against the administration, CBS has a vendetta against George Bush, they have fodder tonight for their cannon, and they will have for some time.  And I think it‘s sad, with an election coming on, when you need a strong journalistic voice like Rather and CBS News can provide, to have them going in with any defensive mode.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, we will look at the black eye not only at CBS but in journalism in general.  Our thanks to Robert Greenwald.  I know we have to leave and move on.  We thank you so much for being with us.  But our continued...

GREENWALD:  My pleasure.

NORVILLE:  ... conversation when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS:  Dan Rather is my friend of 35 years.  And he‘s a good reporter.  But Dan told me and he has since said that if these documents prove to be forgeries, he wants to be the one to break that story, so we‘ll find out where this goes from here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Well, I guess he missed breaking that story.  That was CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer.  He was on the “Imus” radio show this morning. 

As you know, CBS News today acknowledged that it was misled in that “60 Minutes” story which questioned President Bush‘s National Guard service record. 

Back on our discussion now, ABC News correspondent Tom Jarriel, former ABC News anchor from “20/20,” Hugh Downs, author David Blum, and media critic Jeff Jarvis.

Hugh, I‘m curious, do you think that this is going to hurt journalism in general, the black eye CBS has? 

DOWNS:  Yes, it will, but maybe not as much as some people think. 

It is something that—there‘s a body of people out there that think

·         that kind of don‘t trust media anyway, and that‘s going to reinforce their attitudes, I think, on a more or less permanent basis.  I would love to have seen—something we kind of lost is this real barrier between editorial opinion and reportage.  Now, Dan Rather then was reporting and there should have been no opinion exuded, even. 

If he had said, stepping into the editorial box that, in my opinion, Bush had favored treatment and so forth, that would be very different.  But it really becomes an offense when you do it on a documentary basis. 

NORVILLE:  But you don‘t see anymore on TV, Jeff.  Back in old days, you had the guy who stepped over into the commentary box.  But you don‘t see that on TV.

JARVIS:  I don‘t think you can split that up anymore the way we used to think we could before.  Objectivity, if not dead, is at least wounded.  And I think that‘s a good thing in the long run. 

I think what the public demands of us is transparency, is knowing the agenda is not hidden.  Fox News has a perspective.  And they don‘t call it a Republican perspective, but it‘s a clear perspective.  “The Guardian” is now big in the U.S. on the Internet because it has a different perspective.  Web logs are big because they have a perspective.

At some point, Dan Rather does have a perspective.  He‘s human.  And the problem here was ,he didn‘t admit he was human in both ways, making mistakes and having a perspective.  And if he had said it and been transparent about it and honest about it, not to be was lying by omission. 

NORVILLE:  Well, wait a minute.  It‘s one thing to have an opinion.  It‘s another thing to admit you‘re human.  But to have an opinion in reporting, Tom, that‘s just like verboten rule No. 1 has just been broken.

(CROSSTALK)

JARRIEL:  The viewers immediately pick up and detect, as do your colleagues, if you inject opinion doing hard news.  It does not wash for a moment, especially at CBS News.

And I just don‘t think that you‘re ever sitting on a set saying, well, in my opinion because that‘s just not the way he was raised.  It‘s not the way he reports.  And I think that‘s one of his best strengths. 

NORVILLE:  Hugh?

DOWNS:  Well, David Brinkley once said that you can‘t be really objective, but you can try to be fair.  And the fairer a person is, the more objective he becomes in reporting. 

But I don‘t see anything wrong—the last commentator that I saw that was also an anchor was John Chancellor on NBC.  And he would still—a couple of times a week, he would take a minute and do an editorial.  Nobody is doing that now that I know of in network television. 

NORVILLE:  The thing that surprises me, I used to work at CBS and CBS had such—and continues to have such strict guidelines about how one does one‘s work. 

You couldn‘t fake someone walking down the hall.  If you didn‘t have them walking down the hall at that moment with your camera, you just didn‘t have a shot of them walking down the hall. 

David, how much does this change that?  Or does it?  Was it just an aberration or is this emblematic of something else that‘s going on? 

BLUM:  Well, the rules aren‘t going to change. 

This blue-ribbon panel or whatever it is that Andrew Heyward is going to launch, that will ultimate find out where mistakes were made.  And somebody‘s going to get punished and probably lose his job or her job.  But the rules I don‘t think not only won‘t they change.  They will probably be enforced a lot more strictly.  It may end up costing the show some coops, the network some scoops.

But that‘s as it should be.  And I agree that CBS is the gold standard.  At least it began that way.  And it has a chance to regain that if they only somehow can find a way to dig themselves out of this mess. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we‘ve seen networks in this pickle before.  NBC had the GM exploding truck story that producers lost their jobs.  NBC had to apologize.  General Motors began the process of a lawsuit.  ABC had the Philip Morris suit that you have spoken about when you were there, Hugh. 

CNN had Tailwind.  People lost their jobs when it was reported that sarin gas had been used against defectors, wasn‘t true.  Networks can survive this, can they not, Hugh?

DOWNS:  Oh, I think so, yes.  I don‘t think that‘s going to be fatal.  But it is going to have a permanent effect I think on the viewers‘ acceptance of these things. 

NORVILLE:  And, Jeff, you were sharing with us a cartoon that we‘ve got to throw up.  This is from Mike Luckovich of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

It shows an adviser to President Bush.  It‘s a little hard to see on the TV screen.  But it says on there: “Bush is on the phone.”  He calls Dan Rather and says: “Hello, Dan Rather.  I have got a new memo for you.”  And he holds up a piece of paper that say, “W. Ate Puppies in the Guard.”  You know, you can make jokes about it, but it really is a political story, isn‘t it, Jeff? 

JARVIS:  Well, on my web log, I got criticized by readers for not doing this.  It‘s a media story and I should have done it and I didn‘t want all this mud. 

The truth is, it‘s first a media story.  It‘s first a story about journalism.  And I apologized to my readers on my Web log.  You know what happened?  They came in and said thank you.  Dan Rather could have done the same thing.  He could have apologized immediately and said, we rushed this story.  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t know.  I‘m going to get to the bottom of this with you.

Instead, he was distant and apart from everything.  And that‘s an insult to everyone who watches him.  That‘s an insult to all of the citizens.  And that‘s what‘s wrong here.  It puts journalism apart from the people.  Journalism became too institutional, too big.  And it‘s got to get back to a human level, to an eye level.

NORVILLE:  But wait a minute, Tom.  Is it fair to criticize every journalist out there who is trying to do a good job, getting the stories, getting the facts straight because Dan Rather and CBS screwed up? 

JARRIEL:  Journalists can be criticized at any time anywhere because we‘re dealing in public information in a public domain.  So we are always open to criticism. 

On the Luckovich political cartoon showing George W. in the Oval Office calling Dan Rather to give a story to put more news in the public domain, rather than Iraq so they would have less heat was the thrust of it, that‘s a bit Machiavellian, even with today‘s political climate and the twists and turns of the spin-meisters.

NORVILLE:  Yes. 

JARRIEL:  But it‘s fascinating to see how far people are reaching in terms of wondering what forces are at work here. 

NORVILLE:  Yes. 

Well, I remember years ago Potter Stewart, the Supreme Court justice, said journalists spend too much time worrying about what they have the right to do and not enough time about what is the right thing to do.  We will think about that as we go to a break.

When we come back, is the image of the tiffany network tarnished for good or can it make a comeback?  And what are the ramifications of this going to be?  Will heads roll?  If so, whose?

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Did the CBS memo mistake put a black eye on the network‘s credibility?  And can it regain the viewers‘ trust? 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We‘re continuing our discussion.  And our thanks to Hugh Downs, who had to leave for a previous engagement. 

Did CBS News rush to air?  Today, the network admitted that it can‘t vouch for the authenticity of the documents it used in that “60 Minutes” story questioning President Bush‘s National Guard service record.

I‘m back with former ABC News correspondent Tom Jarriel, author and Columbia University professor of journalism David Blum, and media critic Jeff Jarvis.

David, you looked all over “60 Minutes”; $2 billion that it‘s earned in the 30-some-odd years of its history.  You know, there‘s money to be made in them there headlines.  Is there some of that profit motive at play here?

BLUM:  Well, very much so. 

“60 Minutes” is here to stay, at least as long as it‘s making money.  And the networks are determined to keep these shows alive.  The news magazine format has had its ups and downs, but it‘s basically strong.  The problem is, Dan Rather is show much the face of CBS News.  He loves to do every story that comes along, Saddam Hussein, this one.  It really doesn‘t matter.  He likes to be out front. 

And maybe this will teach the network that he‘s spread too thin, doing too many things, anchoring a show five nights a week, doing a piece like this.  It limits the amount of control you can put on it.  And then the producer herself, Mary Mapes, a wonderful producer who did the Abu Ghraib story, probably win a slew of Emmys.  But, you know, you blow one story and it sets you back. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s the one they remember.

BLUM:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Tom, help us understand how the reporting process of a story like this goes about for our viewers who don‘t know what you do on an intimate basis. 

JARRIEL:  In a news magazine, first of all, the producer of the story basically gets research materials, the staff around the producer, and they begin making calls and assembling materials. 

They then take that to a senior producer.  The senior producer looks at it and says, get more of this and that.  Eventually, if it stays alive, if they say, let‘s advance this story, typically, it will go to the executive producer, because he‘s got to commit to the budget and the spending on it. 

Once that is done, then it goes back down to the producer, who makes the calls, looks at the material, authenticate the documents and that type of thing.  They put together a story which then goes for a screening.  The screening is looked at usually by the executive producer, often with the correspondent, the producers and a battery of lawyers. 

Everyone then has a say, so to speak.  If they have any challenge to

the story, it comes out then.  It‘s a very thorough process.  This is not

an evening news session, where you have a deadline 15 minutes away and

you‘ve got to make a decision and you make your best hunch to get something

right and—hope you do.  These types of

(CROSSTALK)

JARRIEL:  ... are long and deliberate.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  You‘ve got the research people.  You‘ve got the producer in the field, the producers in the office.  You‘ve got the executive in the news division and the executive producer.

JARRIEL:  Plenty of resources.

NORVILLE:  As well as the anchor or in this case the reporter on the story, who was Dan Rather. 

And something at this level, when we‘re talking about the president of the united states 50 days before the election, I‘m assuming that Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News, was in on the discussion, too.  Would I be correct? 

JARRIEL:  Not necessarily, no.  I don‘t know.  But very seldom did I ever see the president of ABC News, nor of the other networks, ever hear of the president being in attendance. 

They let their men that they have designated, and women, carry out the duties of having stories and having them right.  Perhaps they keeps distance deliberately.  I don‘t know.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

JARRIEL:  But, certainly, once it gets in the medium, once it gets in the public domain and in discussion and once it‘s a hot issue, they step in quickly and try to manage it. 

NORVILLE:  Andrew Heyward has announced that an independent commission will be impaneled to look at all of the details, that they will report, and that report will be made public. 

If it becomes apparent that serious omissions of attention to facts that didn‘t check out was not paid, should heads roll, in your opinion, Tom?  Should people lose their jobs over a story this serious?

JARRIEL:  Of course.  I think you will see heads roll. 

I think the whole point in almost any institution, whether it‘s government or private, when you begin having an investigation of the inside workings of a story like that, that, for lack of a better description, is the witch-hunt.  How far does it go and who was really to blame and how do we cleanse ourselves of this?

There have been so many wonderful examples, terrible examples, but they‘re good examples of what we‘re looking at here.  “The New York Times” case where a reporter was actually never going to the scene of anything and sitting in a hotel room or at home writing phony stories.  And “The Times” was putting them on, that type of investigation went on there and the cleansing process went all the way up to the managing editor, I believe. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  But you know what, Tom? 

Not only did Jayson Blair do that and get an awful lot of this and some great bylines in “The New York Times.”  When he was canned, he went out on a book tour.  He made money on a book doing it.  So the question a lot of folks are going to ask is, where‘s the justice?  If you get away with it, if you profit somehow or another, where‘s the justice? 

JARRIEL:  You can‘t have justice by being a journalist and also by trying to hawk and sell things.  Certainly, if you‘re a criminal, you can do the same thing. 

The greatest chain saw massacrer in Texas could write a book and sell a million copies before he might be executed. 

NORVILLE:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

JARRIEL:  There‘s no link there that I can see between someone who gets into public view, who gets in the public eye and then cashes in on it and the practice of journalism. 

NORVILLE:  All right, we‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, we‘re naming names. 

Don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  CBS News admitted tonight it went on the air with a story about George Bush‘s National Guard service record using documents that didn‘t check out.  Should heads roll? 

Jeff Jarvis, yes, no?  If so, who? 

JARVIS:  Sure. 

Should Dan Rather be fired?  I don‘t know.  I don‘t really care.  I think what we‘ve got to do is get above this somehow and look at the future of journalism and not just think that, well, you‘ve fired some people.  We‘ve solved the problem. 

There‘s a bigger issue here of what journalism should be, how should we serve the audience and how would we interact with and have a conversation with the audience, who knows, as Dan Gillmor says, a columnist, as much as we do?  And we‘ve got to find new ways to make news into a conversation, not into a sermon. 

NORVILLE:  A lot of people think, David Blum, one way of—that, of getting of people to feel confident about what they see on television and read in the newspapers is to see that, when you have a major screw-up, someone pays a price.

BLUM:  Look, this morning, there was a staff meeting at “60 Minutes.”  The new executive producer of the show spoke to the staff.  There were people crying, terrified that their jobs were over or their show was over.

I think Tom‘s example is very well taken.  Jayson Blair, who there was no—there‘s no control over a reporter who is making up stories.  There‘s really no way to catch that before some other evidence comes into play.  Howell Raines lost his job, the editor of “The New York Times,” even though there was really nothing he could have done, except to have a better system in place.  That‘s probably what‘s going to have to happen here.  Someone at the top is going to have to pay the price for this terrible mistake, even though he or she may not have been personally responsible for it.

NORVILLE:  Is that Dan Rather after a career of 30-plus years? 

BLUM:  It could be Andrew Heyward.  It could be Betsy West, who‘s the

CBS executive directly in charge of the show.  It could be Josh Howard, a

wonderful producer whose

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Who recently took over the reins.

BLUM:  Just took over.  This was his first show.  This was his first piece.  It‘s really a tragic situation for him.  But ultimately it‘s the executive in charge who bears the responsibility for his or her program. 

NORVILLE:  Tom, what do you think?  Will someone lose their job? 

(CROSSTALK)

JARRIEL:  I suspect they will, if nothing else, just to make the point that CBS takes this extremely seriously, too. 

I suspect it will be on a lower level, below Dan, below Andrew Heyward, on the level of either senior producers on perhaps executive producer.  I don‘t know.  But this is a mistake that‘s caught the public imagination, that‘s caught the public attention.  It is a blemish of enormous proportions on the reputation of a very fine news organization.  And their job now is going to rebuild the reputation they had.  And they can‘t very well do that on damaged merchandise. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.

Jeff, I wonder, there‘s a Web site out—it‘s pay crashed several times in the last couple weeks—it‘s called RatherBias.com.  A lot of people have presumed a point of view on the part of Dan Rather.  Do you think CBS could have done this story, still screwed up with some bad documents, but not had the black eye it now has had someone other than Dan Rather fronted the piece? 

JARVIS:  It‘s a great question. 

I think the better question perhaps is, is, if another network had done this piece, they probably wouldn‘t have had quite the firestorm that occurred here.  But Dan Rather‘s reputation and CBS‘ reputation are part of the story.  And they have to recognize that.  They have to recognize that there is a perception of bias out there that is not acknowledged.  Whether true or not, acknowledge it and deal with it.  And they haven‘t dealt with that either.

They didn‘t deal with the truth or falsity of these documents.  They didn‘t deal with their own reputation of bias in much of the audience.  And that‘s going to affect all of us as journalists, who now say, look, look, look at CBS.  I told you they were biased.  And here‘s the proof. 

NORVILLE:  Well, it is beyond my imagination that you can go on television with documents that your experts have told you won‘t check out, with sources that clearly have a bias, and expect that you‘re not going to have a problem.  Just beyond me. 

JARVIS:  I was enraged Jayson Blair as a mendacious little bozo.  But I‘m not happy with Dan Rather and CBS either, because it affects all of journalism.  And I love journalism.  And it‘s important in a democracy.  And we‘ve got to find new ways to fix it altogether.

NORVILLE:  Well, it tars all of us with a brush that is not necessarily deserved.  And I hope they get it fixed over at CBS.

Jeff Jarvis, thank you for being with us. 

David Blum, thank you. 

Tom Jarriel, it‘s so good to see you.  Come to New York so we can do this in person. 

JARRIEL:  OK.  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, the service records for both the president and John Kerry have not only been making headlines.  It‘s also been fodder for late-night comedy.  We‘re going to lighten it up a little bit, enter the Emmy Awards for a little historically perspective. 

Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Want to lighten it up a little bit. 

The questions over President Bush‘s service in the National Guard, as well as John Kerry‘s during Vietnam, made its way to last night‘s broadcast of the Emmy Awards.  Some of the cast members from Comedy Central‘s “The Daily Show” put together a little skit that took issue with former President George Washington‘s service record. 

Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  George Washington sayeth be honest. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I cannot tell a lie. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But hear ye from those who knoweth him best. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hath served with George Washington. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hath served with George Washington.  George Washington be not forthright about his war record. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Washington cares not a whit for his fellow man.  I know.  My slave told me. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And what have his alleged crossing of the Delaware? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was not on the boat, for, that fateful night, George Washington slept here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This be not even the Delaware.  T‘was done at a portrait studio in Weehawken. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hast thou noticed the contours of Washington‘s face?  Methinks they appear a trifle Haitian.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at him standing up in a boat.  Who stands up in a boat?  That‘s just bad boatmanship. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  A little something from the folks at Comedy Central. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Coming up tomorrow night, more on the story of CBS‘ memo mistake.  It‘s not going to be going away.  And we will continue to be following it.  So join us tomorrow night.  And we will also be joined by the ever popular Tom Joyner.  So stay tuned. 

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

That‘s it for us.  We‘ll see you tomorrow. 

END   

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