CBS News and now Newsweek magazine in the space of several months have duped the public in the name of honest journalism. Poor and slanted reporting happens everyday, but the magnitude of these recent disintegration of responsibility and public trust is enormous.
What is worse, if anything can be worse than the abandonment of one’s solemn duty, is that both CBS News and Newsweek have tried to rationalize their failures in a hopeless and unsuccessful attempt to save face. Newsweek said something to the effect of “Well, there were some mistakes in the story, but it has not been proved that someone somewhere, sometime, somehow didn’t flush the Koran down a toilet, so we are standing by our story.” Dan Rather said essentially the same thing about CBS’s fallacious story on George Bush’s imagined dereliction of duty in the National Guard.
You don’t have to be a media bigwig to know certain basic procedures about covering important events. Among them is that you always – always – double-source your information when your first source wishes to remain anonymous. In the absence of confirmation, the journalist ought to assume his source is wrong. To do otherwise is negligent. In the case of CBS News’ irresponsible reporting, a presidential election hung in the balance.
Newsweek’s reckless reporting poured gasoline on the flames of fundamentalist, fanatical Islamic fascists just looking for an excuse to commit murder and mayhem, and more than a dozen people died.
Dishonorable gaffes in reporting like these feed the growing feeling that the mainstream media has an agenda. In the case of both the shameful CBS News/Rathergate debacle and the more recent colossally deadly Newsweek blunder, it is difficult to fend off charges that the media is anti-George Bush and anti-war. The notion that these eager newshounds are poised on the edge of their keyboards waiting for an opportunity to slam Bush and /or the Iraq war is a compelling one. How else can anyone explain why these supposedly honorable media organizations ran stories that were so disgracefully and contemptibly wrong?
The mainstream media seems incapable of learning from their mistakes. Is this arrogance? Hubris? Complacency?Yes to all.