Monday, January 10, 2005

CBS fires four over report of "60 Minutes Wednesday" on Bush/National Guard

As a result of an internal investigation over the Bush/National Guard story, CBS fired Mary Mapes, producer of the report. Josh Howard, executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday" and his top deputy Mary Murphy, and senior vice president Betsy West are asked to resign.

Bloggers played a key role in exposing inconsistencies in the documents which were later determined to be forgeries. The incident showed that publishing by individual third parties (through blogging) can make a difference.

From the CBS report of the investigation of the story of September 8, 2004.


The panel believes a turning point came on Sept. 10, when CBS News President Andrew Heyward ordered West to review the opinions of document examiners who had seen the disputed documents and the confidential sources supporting the story.

But no such investigation was undertaken at that time.

“Had this directive been followed promptly, the panel does not believe that 60 Minutes Wednesday would have publicly defended the segment for another 10 days,” the report said.

The panel made a number of recommendations for changes, including:

Appoint a senior Standards and Practices Executive, reporting directly to the President of CBS News, who would review all investigative reporting, use of confidential sources and authentication of documents. Personnel should feel comfortable going to this person confidentially and without fear of reprisal, with questions or concerns about particular reports. [It named Linda Mason, a CBS writer and producer since 1966, to take the post. ]

Foster an atmosphere in which competitive pressure is not allowed to prompt airing of reports before all investigation and vetting is done.

Allow senior management to know the names of confidential sources as well as all relevant background about the person needed to make news judgments.

Appoint a separate team, led by someone not involved in the original reporting, to look into any news report that is challenged.


Now, if only law reviews such as the Harvard Law Review (PTO grants patents on 97% of all applications) and the University of Chicago Law Review (inventors of transistor anticipated uses only for hearing aids) would institute similar safeguards.

After the review, CBS said Rather asked ``the right questions'' about the reporting of the team who put together the story but was unwilling to consider that they could be wrong. He made the ``the same errors of credulity and over enthusiasm that beset many of his colleagues,'' the statement said. What CBS said about Dan Rather applies equally well to the law reviews.

**UPDATE. Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006**

from Forbes, based on AP:

Analysts say that when Oprah Winfrey confronted disgraced author James Frey on her show Thursday, January 28, 2006, her motive wasn't only about bringing the truth to light, it was about protecting that brand.

"She did it textbook correct in terms of how to handle crisis PR," said marketing strategist Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries in Atlanta. "It was honest, it was real, and it was just the right thing to do for her brand as well."

Winfrey had helped catapult Frey's memoir about addiction and recovery to The New York Times best seller list when she named it as her book club selection in September 2005. The book was originally released in 2003.

Winfrey's scolding of Frey came just two weeks after she called in to defend him when he appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" show.

"Oprah has been in such a unique position that it takes more than just her performance (Thursday) to undo the damage that she did with Frey's book," said Paul Levinson, chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York.

"When the story broke, she, again, chose to support Frey," Levinson said. "Loyalty is important, but she should have loyalty to her viewers and to the people who look up to her. That's more important than loyalty to this author."


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