Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004 / 194 Tishrei, 5765

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Amazing! CBS just doesn't learn


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | If the folks at CBS can't be more honest, at least they could be more careful.


The investigation into why CBS used forged documents in a story on President Bush's National Guard service is just beginning, and pointed questions are being asked about why a CBS producer put the source of the forgeries together with a senior Kerry campaign operative. Prudent people would keep their heads down, at least for a while.


Yet on the Evening News Sept. 28th, Dan Rather broadcast another report based on a fake document, this time a debunked internet hoax that alleges the Bush administration is secretly planning to reinstate the military draft.


The focus of the story by correspondent Richard Schlesinger was on Beverly Cocco, a Philadelphia woman who says she is "sick to her stomach" with worry that her two sons might be drafted.


Schlesinger described Cocco as a Republican. But she is actually a chapter president for "People Against the Draft," a left-wing group that advocates the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, and which is circulating the false email. This fact was known to Schlesinger and his producer, Linda Karras, at the time of the broadcast.


Schlesinger noted somberly that bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to reinstate the draft, but didn't mention that they have only 16 (out of 535) supporters — all of whom are Democrats — and are going nowhere.


Schlesinger quoted Jack Martin, director of the Selective Service, as saying his agency could have a draft up and running six months after Congress voted to reinstate it. But he failed to mention that Martin also said the Selective Service was not now preparing for a draft. In fact, at the top of the Selective Service's website it says: "Notwithstanding recent stories in the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces."


Nor did Schlesinger mention that although President Bush strongly opposes conscription, John Kerry has — or at least had until recently — a plan for mandatory national service. (That plan mysteriously has vanished from his web site, but has been preserved by web logger Brian Mosely of "Swimming Through the Spin.")

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CBS has been deeply in the tank for Kerry since the campaign began. So far, this has hurt CBS more than it has helped Kerry. Ratings for the CBS Evening News have plunged since the forgery scandal broke. The CBS affiliate in Dan Rather's home town of Houston has dropped his daily radio commentary.


Though CBS has been the most egregious offender, it's been far from alone. Most of the major media have been playing up stories harmful to Bush, and playing down or ignoring altogether stories harmful to Kerry in an effort to load the dice in favor of the Democrat.


In an unguarded moment on a local Washington D.C. political gossip show this summer, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas said the pro-Kerry slant of news coverage could add 15 percentage points to the Democrat's standings in the opinion polls.


This is more old media hubris. The "mainstream" media aren't that powerful. At most, media bias has added 4-5 percentage points to Kerry's standing.


But since Kerry now trails Bush by 6-8 percentage points in most polls, you can imagine how far he'd be down if more journalists were acting as journalists instead of as shills for the Democratic National Committee.


But if Kerry's poll numbers don't pick up after the first presidential debate, news organizations have a choice to make. Do they invest more of their diminishing credibility in what appears to be a dead horse, or do they cut their losses and play it straight for the remainder of the campaign? If the news media continue to load the dice for Kerry, and Kerry loses anyway, it will be the media who are the big losers in 2004, and it will not be a loss that can be reversed in four years.


The Internet has changed the rules for journalism. The Swift Boat vets controversy indicated journalists can no longer suppress stories they don't want you to hear, and Rathergate illustrates that journalists can no longer fabricate stories they want you to believe.


The message is clear: Play fair, or lose market share.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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