web counter Media Lies: Expanding on Beldar

Monday, September 20, 2004

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Expanding on Beldar

Beldar posts a scathing analysis of Rathergate and CBS's somewhat mea culpa, and motivates me to expand on three points.

First, Beldar quotes Newsweek
Yesterday, Emily J. Will, a document specialist who inspected the records for CBS News and said last week that she had raised concerns about their authenticity with CBS News producers, confirmed a report in Newsweek that a producer had told her that the source of the documents said they had been obtained anonymously and through the mail.
Now I'm genuinely intrigued. We already know that the documents were faxed from Abilene, where Bill Burkett had an account. Burkett has now admitted to being CBS's source for the documents. So who mailed the documents to Burkett? If Burkett got the documents anonymously, why did he tell CBS he got them from a Guard member? Then change his story and tell Rather he wouldn't reveal the real source? If Burkett told Mapes he got them from a Guard member, then who is the producer who told Emily Will that Burkett had received the documents anonymously?

Inquiring minds really want to know now.

Second, Beldar mentions this
Mr. Burkett is a former Texas Army National Guard officer, not from the Texas Air National Guard, which of course was the branch of the Guard in which Dubya, Killian, Staudt, et al. served in. When one sees this sort of distinction elude the NYT, one wonders if it also eluded CBS News, with serious consequences.)
Every news service I'm aware of has missed this point. I think it illustrates something larger. The old media has despised the military for so long now that they no longer have any understanding of its inner workings nor do they comprehend the differences between the services; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard - it's all the same to them - and the details aren't important to them anyway.

That's why they have no appreciation for the "minutiae" of the Swiftvets story.

Third, and final point.Beldar again quotes Newsweek.
In a telephone interview this weekend, Josh Howard, the executive producer of the "60 Minutes'' Wednesday edition, said that he did not initially know who was Ms. Mapes' primary source for the documents but that he did not see any reason to doubt them. He said he believed Ms. Mapes and her team had appropriately answered all questions about the documents' authenticity and, he noted, no one seemed to be casting doubt upon the essential thrust of the report.

"The editorial story line was still intact, and still is, to this day,'' he said, "and the reporting that was done in it was by a person who has turned in decades of flawless reporting with no challenge to her credibility.''
The only reason this editorial story line is still intact is because no one in the old media has done their homework. (Bloggers have - see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here and here.)

This has been self evident for some time now. Recent examples abound, most notably the Swiftvets story. How many times have you seen an interviewer ask Steve Gardner about the March 13th Bronze Star incident? Or Tedd Peck? How many times have you seen an interviewer say, "You weren't on his boat" revealing that they aren't even aware that Kerry commanded two different boats? How many times have you read interviews that completely miss the point the Swiftvets make? Or ignore the evidence? Or contradict the evidence?

This isn't some sudden, emerging phenomenon. The press has been going for the "easy get" for some time. The AP writes something. Everyone else reprints, with no critical analysis at all. If a story is "exciting", it spreads like wildfire. Never mind the details. We can "correct" those later. Remember the story about subliminal messages in the smoke in Lion King? It's still accepted as true today, despite the fact that it's been proven false or at a minimum uncertain. (And they mock the Internet for spreading rumors!)

You can expect a great deal more accuracy from the blogosphere because, where the press has an ombudsman, bloggers have a thousand critics.