Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Letter to CBS News

I sent a letter to CBS News via their website:

Good afternoon, gentlemen:

To begin, I should note, in the interest of full disclosure, that I am a blogger. Yes, one of those “guys in pajamas” who work at their home computer, and for whom you doubtless hold little fondness at the moment. In reality, of course, I don’t wear pajamas much, and often prepare my pieces with the same editorial standards you would expect of anyone serious about their work. And that brings me, to the matter of Dan Rather’s deceit and complicity in an attempt to manipulate a Presidential election.

Frankly, I am stunned, that you would fail so miserably, in recalling even the basic tenets of Edward R. Murrow, but enough of that. The task at hand, is to stop the fall, and to repair the damage. Some many people are amused at the collapse of CBS’ credibility, but I am not. I am fully aware, that as a blogger, I am able to analyze the work of numerous news sources, compare and test the claims made by all the various spokesmen, but I do not produce a great deal of the news on my own. And so, it is essential for all of us, to be able to trust and cooperate with the major news networks, provided a feasible arrangement can be had. You see, it should have occurred to you, or will soon, that CBS, if it is to survive, needs the blogger community as much as we need you. Or to put it more bluntly, if CBS fails, we still have ABC, NBC, CNN, and Fox, just as if any one or number of bloggers were to stop publishing, there would be many to take their place. But I think it is better for all concerned, to find a means of cooperation, where all gain a better position from the moment.

You will decide for yourself where things went wrong on the Guard Memo Forgery story, so I will not presume to tell you what should be obvious. However, it should be abundantly clear, that you need at least one more level of check and balance to prevent the sort of error so painfully difficult to repair. And to that, I would make four suggestions:

1. Admit you screwed up. Be specific, and make sure Rather personally apologizes to the Killian family. Until they forgive you, this won’t go away. Don’t put your buddies on any commission, either. If you’re going to find out what happened, cooperate fully in telling the whole truth. Anything else, is just digging deeper.

2. Do not let a news anchor play at investigative reporter. It blurs the line between news and commentary to begin with, and as you see in the present mire, it removes some much-needed safeguards.

3. Get a broader perspective, than the New York office. America is also made up of people in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Detroit, and many small towns and remote locations, as well. Test your opinion where you won’t get the automatic response.

4. Hire bloggers! I would strongly recommend, that CBS start a network blog, where you can get immediate and direct feedback from viewers, and to do that, you will need people able to post CBS stories with the blog flavor and, frankly, the sort of honesty that is not found on broadcast news. Yeah, I know, this isn’t going to be popular with men who think in terms of how they did things in 1980, but take a close look at how the bloggers broke the Rathergate story, and you have to see that only by having bloggers of your own, can you avoid becoming irrelevant. Besides, the trend towards online news and real-time feedback is not only happening, it’s here. Evolve or be left behind, gentlemen.

5. Last but not least, remember who you used to be. There was a time, when CBS stood for a standard better than the other networks. For a lot of people, it matters.

If you are still reading by this point, thanks, and congratulations – like the saying, the first step to getting better, is admitting you have a problem. I send this message not to taunt, but to make suggestions that really will help.


“DJ Drummond”

Who knows, maybe it will do some good!

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