Monday, September 20, 2004

A Rather Pesky Question

In a story on the CBS News website today, News President Andrew Heyward says:

"Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."

The story also states that:

"...former Texas Guard official Bill Burkett 'has acknowledged that he provided the now disputed documents' and 'admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source.'"

Further in the story:

"CBS News pledged 'an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken.'"

Now, to me, several things seem to be missing from this story. First of all, there is not an admission that the documents are actually forgeries. Scores of experts and numerous other news agencies have weighed in and the general assumption is that the documents are not real. The preponderance of evidence points toward forgery.

Secondly, the gist I get is that CBS News is only concerned with the provenance of the documents. Not that they are fakes but where did Burkett get them from; was that source reliable? It seems like they are still holding out hope for a major scoop which will reveal that all their previous reporting was accurate.

And finally, where is the anger? Doesn't it seem an obvious move for a major news outlet that has been hoodwinked and has had its journalistic integrity called into question to throw all of its investigative weight into finding out who forged these documents and why? What steps failed in CBS News' story preparation process is significant, but the really big story in all of this is who and why, not how!