Monday, January 10, 2005
Many blogs that tend to line up right of the line (or do so quite proudly) are left hungry for more striking findings from the report. For example, Hugh Hewitt uses the term "whitewash" and characterizes the language used as "an abdication by the Panel of the central question." Jim Geraghty (at the now anachronistically-named "Kerry Spot") concludes the investigation "did CBS and the readers of this report a disservice for not addressing [the political bias] issue a little tougher." Interestingly, while I do not regularly read more left-leaning blogs regularly, I did take a quick tour and the only mention I saw of the report was Oliver Willis' use of it to draw a (faulty) comparison between the four who lost their jobs at CBS over a "faulty report" and the fact the no one has lost their in the White House over "faulty intelligence." Go figure.
I'll admit on the front end that I haven't read the entire report, but the parts I've seen seem to be very focused on the facts uncovered. The checking and verification practices normally used to get a story like this to air that were not followed in this case constitute findings of facts. Why those practices weren't followed constitute opinion. I believe the clear decision to try and stick to facts was chosen not only to satisfy their employer (CBS) but also to try and create a document that was, in its conclusions, largely unassailable by both left and right. In short, I see this report not as the final word, but more as an agreed to framework within which all can begin discussion of opinion.
For example, while the report doesn't offer the red meat of a finding of political partisanship so strongly desired, it does offer sufficient agreed to facts that supporting such a claim with this document isn't that difficult. While not directly citing political bias, it does mention "a zealous belief in the truth of the segment [that] led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles." What, then could have been the cause for this zealous belief, a belief Dan Rather still has and expresses? Political bias is, of course, the most logical.
Do I think this report is the end-all, be-all wonder of the times? No, but I think it may be the best that could realistically have been hoped for. Personally, I would like nothing better than everyone in the entire CBS news organization that touched the story to be up in front of a grand jury answering for attempted election fraud, but I don't think there is such a crime, nor am I comfortable with a government that can do such a thing. It really is a no-win situation. That is not to say, however, that CBS doesn't loose too. Granted there are lots of people who base their news viewership upon who wears the nicest tie or has the best legs, and nothing that was ever to come from this report would have much affect upon them. But among the informed consumers of news, and especially network news and news programs, this report is just another reminder that these people can't be trusted.
The report certainly isn't perfect, but then again what is?