The good news: Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk has finally engaged on the CBS story in a meaningful way. Good for them.
The bad news: CJR concludes, "There's nothing complicated about any of this. The real story here isn't political bias on the part of CBS or Rather. It's that of big news organizations still in the thrall of a scoop mentality that dates back to the 1920's and Ben Hecht -- and still reluctant to come clean even when a story unravels."
Umm, how do they know this? Remember, on September 14, 2004, CJR explained that the reason they weren't covering the CBS story was because "it's not clear whether CBS has been had by some undercover operative intent on smearing the president, or whether the network itself is the victim of a smear campaign." In other words, they were too scrupulous to go rushing to judgment, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Fair enough.
Now, CJR has decided that they absolutely, positively, totally understand the true nature of CBS's ethical failings even though they know next to nothing about how the CBS story came to pass. What proof does CJR have that there "isn't political bias" from CBS or Rather? None.
And on the other side of the ledger, there's troubling evidence which suggests that CBS's ethical failings might well be rooted in political bias. Take Mary Mapes and the revelation that she reached out to the Kerry campaign to pass on information she had unearthed during her reporting. What does CJR have to say about this? Nothing.
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