January 10, 2005

MemoGate Report Is Out; So Are Four CBS Execs, Including Mary Mapes

Well, it's here. Editor and Publisher reports:

Four CBS executives were fired Monday following the release of an independent investigation that said a "myopic zeal" led to a "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's military service that relied on allegedly forged documents.

The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the report; Josh Howard, executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday" and his top deputy Mary Murphy; and senior vice president Betsy West.

<. . .>

Dan Rather, who narrated the report, announced in November that he was stepping down as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," but insisted the timing had nothing to do with the investigation.

The independent investigators -- former Republican Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi, retired president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press -- said they could find no evidence to conclude the report was fueled by a political agenda.

The network's drive to be the first to break a story about Bush's National Guard service was a key reason it produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet CBS News' internal standards, the investigators said.

What do you want to bet some bloggers will see things differently?


According to RatherBiased, there is a “war” going on within CBS over how much of the report to release publicly—and how soon. How much is released (and when) will tell us just how serious the folks at CBS are about changing the corporate culture.

UPDATE: The report is now available as a PDF. Outside the Beltway has the link, extensive quotes, analysis, and a mini-roundup of blogger reactions.

The main controversy in the 'sphere seems to be whether this report is a "whitewash" of the situation (Hugh Hewitt), or "damning" (James Joyner). It is apparent to me that some of the language was softened a little bit before the report was released (the point is made, for instance, that there's no "absolute certainty" that the memos in question were forged; sure—if someone has a secret time travel machine, the documents might have been produced in the present day by an individual who hopped right back to the 70s, clutching the memos in his/her hot little hands).

But the litanies of egregious lapses of journalistic integrity in the report speak for themselves, and of all the recent media scandals (The New York Times, etc.) this one has by far the highest "body count."

Dan Rather may still have his job, and he may well be sitting in the anchor's chair for a few more months. But he's been publicly humiliated, as has CBS in its entirety.

Diplomatic language aside, the report is ultimately brutal in its assessment, and it brought CBS to its knees. All that remains to be seen is whether this is a one-time gesture or a permanent change in the way 60 Minutes does business.

Posted by Attila at January 10, 2005 09:42 AM
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