CBS axes four in Rathergate aftermath

In an incident that will forever change modern journalism practices, a vice president and three producers are out at CBS News over the infamous Bush National Guard story broadcast by 60 Minutes Wednesday. CBSNews.com reported the story first thing this morning.

“We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy,” said CBS President Les Moonves.

The panel said a “myopic zeal” to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization’s internal standards.

“The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles,” the report said.

The thing I find remarkable so far is how closely the findings parallel comments by members of the blogosphere who’ve been covering this from the beginning. This will become one of the most importent journalism stories of modern times, for the fallout will rewrite the rules of engagement for newsgathering — primarily by forcing the MSM to do a better job of listening to the public.

It was an angry public that brought all this about. The public has been angry with the MSM before, but this time they were able to publish their objections for others to see and further complain. This is new in the world of journalism, and it’s why this event will shape the trade for years to come. The blogosphere didn’t just happen. The energy for it has been building for decades, and the genie is now out of the bottle.

What I don’t see in this report is any real evidence of descending from the news pedestal that is CBS News. Jeff Jarvis told Fox News this morning that network news doesn’t need more commissions or committees, as the report recommends. All they really need to do is listen.

This is bigger than Dan Rather. This is bigger than CBS News. This is about the news and the new relationship — the conversation — journalism must learn to have with the public, or the public will go have it without them.
Amen, brother Jeff!

Complete 234 page report in .pdf format

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