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January 10, 2005

RATHERGATE UPDATE:

Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush’s National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with “rigid and blind” defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

Sounds good so far.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis reacts. Here's a link to the complete report, which is quite long even though the appendices haven't been added yet. (So I guess I should really call it the "incomplete report?") I think that many bloggers will be combing through it rather carefully in search of interesting nuggets, despite its length.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes that nobody from the press asked Bush about this at his morning Q&A, and suggests that they're covering up for their fellows. Maybe, maybe not. But as a public service, here's a "reconstructed" transcript that I just got by fax from a Kinko's in Washington. I'm sure it's authentic:

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, how do you feel about the firings and resignations at CBS, over the presentation of a show designed to influence the election, one based on documents that CBS's own experts said were probably bogus?

THE PRESIDENT: I feel pretty good.

Close enough for government CBS work.

MORE: TVNewser is all over the RatherGate story. So is Jim Geraghty. Both think that the panel pulled punches on the question of whether Rather and Mapes were politically motivated. Since it's obvious that they were, I have to agree.

So does SoxBlog, which calls the report "half a loaf:"

Here’s what I wanted to hear and I bet you did, too: Number 1, the documents were forgeries; and Number 2, The CBS apparatchiks involved in this sordid affair were animated by their black hearts’ desires to wound the President. Alas, the Report says neither.

But here’s what you do get. The Report lays out the factual case of what happened here better than anything else that I've read. And the factual case is incredibly damning to CBS News and the soon to be departing individuals involved in this endeavor. Yes, the Report doesn’t explicitly say that the documents were forgeries, but no sentient reader could make any other conclusion based on the evidence it offers. . . .

I have a feeling those of us in the right wing blogosphere will dismiss the Report because it declines to make explicit that which we “know” regarding CBS’ motives and the documents authenticity. To do so would be a mistake. The Report lays out the facts and those alone are damning enough.

Indeed.

MORE: Here's an observation that CBS is comfortable assigning political motivations to bloggers, but not to its own people. Meanwhile Hugh Hewitt says that the treatment of the political angle is a "whitewash." That might seem a bit strong, but the less-partisan TVNewser agrees:

CBS may not have been advancing a "political agenda" -- but it seems that Mary Mapes was.

I expect we'll hear more on this. In fact, we already are: Big roundup here.

STILL MORE: Jim Geraghty:

Does the panel really think that CBS would have acted in the same manner in a seemingly-great story that would have hurt John Kerry? Are we really to believe that it was solely “competitive pressures” that led to this, and that no one in this process had their thinking influenced by a desire to see Bush defeated in this year’s election?

It seems that CBS's unwillingness to admit this is turning into the big story.

I'm busy (classes start today) but Jeff Jarvis and RatherBiased.com have much more. Jeff's best bit:

I see that the report is calling for more commissions and committees and all that -- which is just the wrong thing to do: It puts yet more distance between the journalists and the public they are supposed to serve. They should be doing just the opposite: tearing down the walls, making journalists responsible for interacting with the public.

This is bigger than Dan Rather. This is bigger than CBS News. This is about the news and the new relationship -- the conversation -- journalism must learn to have with the public, or the public will go have it without them.

Indeed. But Dan Rather isn't backing down:

Rather informed the Panel that he still believes the content of the documents is true because “the facts are right on the money,” and that no one had provided persuasive evidence that the documents were not authentic.

Sheesh. Will Collier, meanwhile, notes several dogs that didn't, or won't, bark.

MORE STILL: Here's another CBS scandal:

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A former columnist for CBS MarketWatch.com will pay more than $540,000 to settle charges he used his investment newsletter to make profits by promoting stock that he owned.

Thom Calandra, who wrote the Calandra Report for the company now known as MarketWatch Inc. (MKTW), settled the Securities and Exchange Commission charges without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

The SEC said Calandra made more than $400,000 in illegal profits by buying shares of thinly traded small-cap companies, writing favorable profiles of the companies, and then selling most of his shares after his columns had driven up the price of the securities.

Ouch.

And Johnny Dollar is rounding up the Rathergate-related TV punditry so that you don't have to, you know, watch it.

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