Sunday, September 12, 2004

Pajama Party

So when does Dan Rather resign? The story he still insists is true has collapsed under sustained assault by the blogosphere. It appears that his most important media ally -- The New York Times -- has decided to cut its losses. And yet Rather continues to double down -- insisting even in private that the story is true.

What we are looking at here is a mini-Tailwind, politically-loaded fiction masquerading as "investigative journalism." Ordinarily, in situations like this, corporations move very quickly to isolate the damage and protect their brand image. A "producer" is fingered as the problem, a ritual sacrifice is held, appropriate apologies are offered, and the game begins anew.

Mr. Rather has put his CBS superiors in a very difficult place. By insisting that this phony story is true, he has denied them the easy damage control game plan. Indeed, he has put them in a nearly untenable position; they must choose between what the know to be true (that the story is phony and therefore damaging to the brand image of CBS News) and one of their largest investments (Rather himself).

At the end of the day (not that they give a damn about CBS News or journalistic integrity) they'll have to choose to defend the brand. Which means that the "damage" they will have to isolate is Rather himself. You can bet that tomorrow will not be a happy day at CBS Headquarters. A bunch of guys in pajamas have seen to that.