Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Dream Team

It was clear from the moment it was announced that pairing Tiger Woods with Phil (Mr. Callaway) Mickelson was a really bad idea and that it was. Team Europe thrashed the hapless Americans on Day One of the Ryder Cup. The hapless US television commentators reverted to "Monty the Great," by way of explanation, but it wasn't just Monty (great as he always is in Ryder Cup play). Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia and especially Padraig Harrington were sensational.

Also sensational were the fans from Michigan. After the beery boorishness of Brookline in 1999, it was a welcome relief to hear the Michiganders applaud the fine play of the Euros while rooting hard for the home team.

Wishing It Weren't So

Kausfiles has a funny bit about yesterday's Note from the political team at ABC News. One reason Real Clear Politics has become the best bookmark of the 2004 campaign is that they separate news aggregation from opinion.

Concerted Effort

Here's an excellent chronology of the CBS News-National Guard documents story from the always excellent Corante. One thing that the author leaves out of his time-line is that the 60 Minutes story was the linchpin of a post-GOP Convention "stop-the-Bush-bounce" counterattack by the DNC and the Kerry campaign.

The Boston Globe and The New York Times provided newspaper "stories" about Bush's National Guard service. 60 Minutes provided the crucial, prime-time television coverage. And the DNC ran an ad that "contexted" the issue. If you think this was not all of a piece, let me introduce you to a friend of mine in the real estate business.

Happily enough, we now know that on 2 September, in the early evening, someone faxed a copy of the fraudulent documents to CBS News from a Kinkos in Texas. There were six security cameras working at that Kinkos, so we will soon know the identity of the person who faxed the documents to CBS News. Once we know that, the rest will unravel.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Fake But Accurate?

"In accordance with longstanding journalistic ethics, CBS News is not prepared to reveal its confidential sources or the method by which 60 MINUTES Wednesday received the documents."

Why not? The documnets are obviously fraudulent. CBS News has been badly tarnished as a result. I would think that someone at CBS or at Viacom would be ready to lynch whoever did this to CBS News. Any ethical obligation to the source, as emailer CM notes below, is forfeited if the documents are fraudulent.

Emailer CM is right about this. The identity of the source is the hinge of the story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Dear Mr. Ellis,

If CBS were to acknowledge the documents to be a forgery, then they could not claim ethical responsibility to protect their sources. Once implicated, the sources might further implicate those who encouraged them. Where would this lead?

Has any reporter ever gone to jail for protecting the source of a forged document? A document which the reporter himself acknolwedges to be false?

CBS will continue to maintain authenticity. They have no alternative. They have been very clearly advised on this by their attorneys.

The risk calculations are much different than for an ordinary news fraud. The business cost to CBS of acknowledging forgery could ultimately be much larger than mere damage to the brand. Think Arthur Andersen.


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.