Making CBS play fair
Pajama game. When the mistakes-were-made semiapology finally came, Rather emitted the phrase "if I knew then what I know now." But all he had to do to know it then was to turn on his computer or pick up a copy of the Washington Post. The network hostility to Internet commentary was obvious. One CBS news executive referred to bloggers as people writing in their pajamas (i.e., not members of our esteemed guild). Rather associated them with rumor and propaganda. This seems to mean that many in the mainstream press still don't understand bloggers and tend to associate them with the Drudge Report on its worst day. Bloggers make their case with hyperlinks to primary sources and other data. Arguments without authority count for nothing, and soft-headed analyses and hoaxes are quickly exposed. As RealClear Politics said, it's a fast-moving, "very transparent, self-correcting environment ultimately based on facts."
Often contrasted with the entrenched big-time media, the bloggers are becoming part of the mainstream. Think of them as the outsourced post-publication checking department of the big-time news media. Dan Rather, or somebody at CBS, should surely take a look.
One good blogger, Jay Rosen of New York University's journalism school, calls the CBS fiasco "just one part of a massive institutional failure at CBS, much of it still to be uncovered." It produced "a full-fledged credibility crisis" and an opportunity for CBS's detractors to "damage beyond recognition one of the big players." Just so. But the goal should be to make CBS more honest, not to delegitimize it or drive it out of business. Already there are calls for congressional hearings--a bad idea. Do we want an all-out vengeful assault on CBS, or do we simply want the network to come to its senses and play stories straight?