CBS Situation Works Against Both Network And Rather
|Continued reporting and comment in the aftermath of the CBS firing of four staff members in the inquiry into the network's story on President Bush's National Guard service make it plain that the damage to CBS is intensifying. More pressure is also coming onto Rather.
In the background is increasing pressure on all of the mainstream news media to bend over backward to be fair to Bush, who was frequently pasted in the recent presidential campaign.
The Los Angeles Times had a lengthy further story this morning, Jan. 16, on "How CBS' Big Story Fell Apart." This was, incidentally, the paper's new media correspondent, James Rainey's, first big story. He shared the byline with Texas LAT correspondent Scott Gold. Rainey is usually a careful, meticulous reporter, and this story demonstrated that.
I have, frankly, been somewhat sympathetic to Rather in this whole matter. But Rather had comparatively little to say in the wake of the release of the independent panel's report last week, and now new questions have arisen as to whether his announced assignment with "60 Minutes, Wednesday," will actually be available to him after he retires as the CBS news anchor next month. There has been speculation that "60 Minutes, Wednesday" may be cancelled because of low ratings, raising a question of whether Rather would be given much work on the main ^60 Minutes" show appearing Sundays.
LAT media columnist Tim Rutten wrote last week that the main question surrounding the CBS controversy, or, as some call it, the CBS scandal, was whether CBS personnel showed political bias against Bush in doing the National Guard story. Initially, I said the main issue still revolved around whether the story was accurate. However, on further reflection and reading further comment, I now think Rutten may have been right.
Presently, the ball seems to be on the conservative side, with criticism of CBS only mounting and very little public sympathy with Rather and the fired staff members. There seems to be a widespread assumption that the National Guard story was not authenticated, and there have been further suggestions, even from her own father, that fired CBS producer Mary Mapes, was biased.
Even the L.A. Times editorial pages, often a vitriolic critic of the Bush Administration, seem milder in the last week or two. Even editorial pages editor Michael Kinsley seems aware a firestorm is building against the Bush critics in the news media, despite continuation of the President's hard struggle in the Iraq war.