on CBS, Dan Rather, and the forged documents:
From any kind of perspective, this is not an earth-shattering event. The documents are by no means the only evidence for Bush's lax National Guard service. U.S. News & World Report just ran a far more devastating piece proving Bush's patchy record, a story that was naturally ignored by almost everyone. I know of very few people who believe that Bush's family connections never influenced how he managed to avoid combat during the Vietnam years; and just as few who really believe this is an issue that should determine the election.
True. As I said a couple of days ago, if the story hadn't involved forged documents, it would have fallen by the wayside. Now it's a real
story, though it's now more about the media than anything else.
And the essence of journalistic trust is not simply the ability to get things right and to present views or ideas or facts clearly and entertainingly. It is also the capacity to admit error, suck it up, and correct what you've gotten wrong. Take it from me. I've both corrected and been corrected. When you screw up, it hurts. But in the long run, it's a good hurt, because it takes you down a peg or two and reminds you what you're supposed to be doing in the first place. Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time.
CBS News has failed on all these counts. It did shoddy reporting and then self-interestedly dug in against an avalanche of evidence against it. Rather can blather all he wants about the political motivation of some in the blogosphere--but what matters is not bias but accuracy. His attitude, moreover, has bordered on the contemptuous; and the blogosphere has chewed him up and spat him out. He has acted as if journalism is a privilege rather than a process; as if his long career makes his critics illegitimate; as if his good motives can make up for bad material. The original mistake was not a firable offense. But the digging in surely is. It seems to me that when a news anchor presents false information and then tries to cover up and deny his errors, he has ceased to be a journalist. I'd like to say that Dan Rather needs to resign from his profession. But, judging from the last few days, he already has.
Not a good note to retire on, to be sure.
And you know you're in a bad spot when even John Stewart is mocking you. After showing the clip of Rather's silly, indignant rebuttal on the CBS news, Stewart said:
"I'm Dan Rather, and I will...not...be...fact-checked!"
But Rather didn't just get fact-checked...he got his ass handed to him on a platter, and right now he's pretty much a laughing stock.