Friday, September 24, 2004

Baba Wawa Woves Wather

"You have the support of all of us here," said Ms. Walters to Mr. Rather at a party honoring her 25 years at the ABC News program 20/20. Page Six fills in the rest. Mr. Heyward appears to be resisting the Krazy Glue strategy.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Krazy Glue Strategy

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Rather said that on learning that Ms. Mapes had obtained the documents, he called Mr. Heyward.

"This is not verbatim," Mr. Rather recalled. "But I said: 'Andrew, if true, it's breakthrough stuff. But I need to do something unusual. It may even be unique. I have to ask you to oversee, in a hands-on way, the handling of this story, because this is potentially the kind of thing that will cause great controversy.'

"He got it. He immediately agreed.
'' -- from today's New York Times

Let's summarize Mr. Rather's position: if I go down, (CBS News President Andrew) Heyward goes down with me. Krazy-glued at the hip. as it were. This must have been unwelcome news at the Heyward household this morning; a hostage-taking over Cheerios.

The weird thing about this story is what might be called the "everyone knows factor." Everyone knew that the documents were not, to use CBS's terminology, "authentic." Everyone knew that the position of CBS News was therefore untenable. And now everyone knows that the person most responsible for this debacle is none other than Dan Rather himself. He pushed the story onto the air. He defended it long after it was revealed to be indefensible. He hijacked a great news organization and drove it off a cliff.

Mapes and Howard will be terminated soon -- and for good reason -- but they are minor players. CBS can't get healthy until Rather is gone. He's both an embarrassment and a disgrace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Dear Mary Mapes

The red dot is now on your head. From Howard Kurtz's article this morning (the suits always use Howie to get their messages across):

The most vulnerable employee at CBS would seem to be Rather's producer, Mary Mapes, who not only obtained the discredited documents but also put her source, former National Guardsman Bill Burkett, in touch with Joe Lockhart, senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Note the linkage.

P.S.: Just in case you didn't get the message, the suits were kind enough to leave one on your mobile. You can read the text of that message here.

P.P.S. And they sent you an e-mail via Bill Carter, their water-boy at The New York Times. It reads, in part:

Mr. Rather and CBS executives said Mr. Bush's Guard records had been intensely important to (Mapes), a subject she had been chasing with Mr. Rather off and on for five years.

Several people at the news division, who insisted on anonymity because they had been told not to talk to reporters, said one important line of inquiry in the internal inquiry would be whether Ms. Mapes's zeal clouded her judgment.

Some colleagues and associates questioned whether her politics could have interfered.

P.P.P.S.: One more thing. Today is "tone shift day," the day when the tone of voice of your CBS colleagues (especially your "superiors") changes dramatically. There's a distinct chill in the air, so to speak. Because today is the day that they begin in earnest to try to ruin the rest of your life.


Now that the entire world knows that the infamous Killian memos are, in fact, forgeries, it's worth noting that one man -- Dan Rather -- still believes that the documents are authentic. I know I say this over and over again, but really: You can't make this stuff up. Let's go to the text of Dan's crazed interview with the Chicago Tribune:

"Do I think they're forged? No," Rather said. "But it's not good enough to use the documents on the air if we can't vouch for them, and we can't vouch for them."

Rather said he had no regrets for his defense of the story.

"I believed in it," he said. "I wouldn't have put it on the air if I hadn't of believed in it. And what kind of reporter would I be if I put something on the air in which I believed, and as soon as it's attacked and under pressure, you run, you fold, you fade, you side-wind? That's not the kind of person I am, and it's not the kind of reporter I am."

Memo to the Suits: Get this guy in a straitjacket asap. He's killing you.

Memo to Roger Simon: Many thanks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

CBS Public Relations

How much does CBS miss having the services of John Scanlon? A lot, judging from the events of the last 14 days. The fact that they don't have Scanlon on their team explains, to some degree, their inability to mount a coherent response to this brand-shattering scandal.

Dear Josh

If you think your situation differs from that of Mary Mapes, think again:

In a further sign of the turmoil at CBS, some staff members at the original Sunday "60 Minutes" say their program has been unfairly blemished by the Wednesday spin-off, which began in 1999 as "60 Minutes II."

"I think it is safe to say that the overwhelming feeling among correspondents and producers on the Sunday program is that we would not have made the same mistakes," correspondent Steve Kroft said. He added: "It's hard to know at this point exactly what went wrong, because the Wednesday show is an entirely separate broadcast with entirely different people, and brand-new management. But something clearly went wrong with the process."

Josh Howard, who runs "60 Minutes" Wednesday, said producer Mapes had not told him that Burkett was the source and that this was "probably one of many things I would do differently next time." As for Burkett's charge that Mapes, who has declined all interview requests, pushed him too hard, Howard said: "If anything, we didn't push hard enough."

Unimpeachable Source

That's what CBS News Anchor Dan Rather called Bill Burkett. Read this story and name me one editor in the country who would have the slightest confidence in anything Mr. Burkett had to say.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Second Salvo

Dear Mary Mapes --

Following is the last paragraph of an AP story that is moving on the wire:

(Kerry "Message Maven" Joel) Lockhart said Mapes asked him the weekend before the story broke to call Burkett. "She basically said there's a guy who is being helpful on the story who wants to talk to you," Lockhart said, adding that it was common knowledge that CBS was working on a story raising questions about Bush's Guard service. Mapes told him there were some records "that might move the story forward. She didn't tell me what they said."

The suits move fast. More is on the way.

All Best -- Ellisblog

A Blue Ribbon Panel

CBS News and CBS management are commissioning an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken. The names of the people conducting the review will be announced shortly, and their findings will be made public. -- from an internal e-mail to CBS News employees from Andrew Heyward, CBS News President.

Dear Mary Mapes --

Call your lawyer immediately. DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow CBS counsel to represent your interests.

All Best -- Ellisblog

Rather Caves, Suits Rule

Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question—and their source—vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where—if I knew then what I know now—I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question. But we did use the documents.

We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully. -- statement of Dan Rather, 20 September 2004.

Dear Mary Mapes --

This is their opening salvo. The questions that arise are: (1) why didn't he "know then what he knows now?," and (2) who was primarily responsible for the "mistake in judgement?" The suits will answer both questions with your name.

Note the effort to separate the "story" from the "documents." Dan doesn't do document verification, that someone else's job. The suits will say it was your job.

Read tomorrow's newspapers very carefully, especially the NYT and the WaPo. The second salvo will be found therein.

All Best -- Ellisblog

Blame Shift

Dear Mary Mapes:

Now that the suits have decided to abandon ship, the game begins. The name of this game, as you well understand, is called "blame shifting" and the person to whom the blame will be shifted is you.

This process is now underway. The quotes about your integrity and character will quickly be flipped to read "we had no idea she was as crazy as a hoot owl." The pivot (for them) will be the assertion that you've been working on this story for five years. Diligence, they will say, crossed over to obsession. And obsession, they will say (sadly), caused you to disregard better judgement.

Since they have a record of all your e-mails and phone calls and cell phone calls, they will likely find there a number of telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of people affiliated with the DNC, the Kerry campaign and various anti-Bush 527s. They will use those to destroy your credibility. And they will say that had they known about these "unprofessional" oppo research relationships, which the e-mail traffic and phone calls will almost certainly document, they would never have allowed "your" story to air.

Mr. Rather, your erstwhile colleague, has a choice to make and he will side with management. So if you're looking for help there, forget it.

Hire a lawyer and an agent. Do not resign. Do not agree to any "internal inquiry" until you have talked to a lawyer. Have the agent put out word to various publications that you are drafting a longish article on "what really happened." The one thing they can't afford is "your side of the story" out there for all to read. So they will pay you a ton of money not to publish.

Take the money and run, with a contract that says "one disparaging word about Mary Mapes and the 'tell-all' article runs" on your new blog.

Welcome to the blogosphere.

All Best -- Ellisblog

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Well, you knew that Tiger was going to make fairly short work of Paul Casey, so the key match turned out to be the second; Mickelson vs. Garcia. Could Mickelson derail the best Ryder Cup player on either team?

Not a chance. Garcia destroyed Mickelson over the last eight holes of their match and the rout of the Americans was on. Kudos to the Europeans, who were magnificent. And kudos as always to NBC analyst Johnny Miller, the best in the business by about nine miles.

Less is More

The major broadcast network value proposition these days is as follows: you pay more money to advertise to fewer people. People like NBC's Jeff Zucker and Les (who cares about the CBS News brand?) Moonves maintain that this is a "win-win" situation. Finally, one brand (Mitsubishi Motor) has pulled the plug:

Last week, the Mitsubishi Motor Company pulled every penny of its advertising from prime-time network shows, $120 million worth, because, as Ian Beavis, its senior vice president for marketing, put it, "There's nothing compelling in the new network programming."

Mr. Beavis, who said Mitsubishi would place more ads on cable and local television shows, as well as spend more on magazines and Internet sites, said he was just one of many advertisers expressing frustration with the networks.

"How long can you pay more for less?" he asked. "Someone has to finally say enough."