While nearly everyone has focused on the Dylan Davies fakery in CBS’s bogus Benghazi report, McClatchy veteran Middle East correspondent Nancy Youssef late yesterday presented a long list of other factual problems, or at least very dubious assertions, in the segment. Taken together, they further the notion that Lara Logan had an agenda and cooked, or accepted weak, evidence to make her “case.” Read the entire piece here.
“Logan’s mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast’s transcript shows,” Youssef reports.
This arrived as a CBS spokesman revealed that a “journalistic” review of their segment is ongoing, which is vague and may mean little. Of course, they had to “review” the segment after The Washington Post, The New York Times and Media Matters destroyed it. They are still not promising a full probe or naming an independent panel (à la Rathergate).
And there’s this good reminder in the piece:
Logan claimed that “it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault.” But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator. Rather it is believed a number of groups were part of the assault, including members and supporters of al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah as well as attackers angered by a video made by an American that insulted Prophet Muhammad. The video spurred angry protests outside Cairo hours beforehand.
Still, many media writers/critics remain oddly passive, raising the chances that CBS fulfills its goal of turning the page on this scandal quickly.
And nothing peeves me more than prominent media writers/critics crediting CBS with offering a belated apology/correction, of giving them “points” for it, even if they think it didn’t go far enough. I’ve seen this time and again in the past few days.
For example, Alicia Shepard, who has done great work in the past as media writer, editor, and ombud, in a piece at Columbia Journalism Review, called Lara Logan’s apology last Friday “brave.” Last Friday, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post, wrote: “Lara Logan this morning delivered a clinic on how a media organization should correct the record on faulty reporting…. And with those words, about 10 tons of pressure drained from the Manhattan offices of ‘60 Minutes.’ ” (Really?) Tom Rosenstiel, longtime director of the American Press Institute, has called the “60 Minutes” correction highly unusual and so he deserves credit for that.
Here’s Rosenstiel on PBS NewsHour this week: “CBS deserves credit for admitting that they made a mistake. That’s unusual in broadcast. We don’t see corrections on television in the course of normal activity. And mistakes are made all the time.”
True, mistakes are often made. But (1) not normally on the level of a completely false interview that forms the major part of a full segment on a hot political subject via the top-rated network news show and (2) now completely debunked, in a humiliating and high-profile way, by the two leading US newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
For veteran media critics to give CBS any credit whatsoever for pulling the story is disgraceful. What other choice did “brave” Lara Logan and team have? It is unfathomable to imagine them not offering at least the very brief apologies that did come. So they deserve credit for that? Saying so only blunts the strong criticism of what 60 Minutes aired and the questions left unanswered.
Again, Rosenstiel, when asked what CBS needs to do now: “[W]hat they owe us, what they owe the public is assurances that there—that there isn’t something that—in their processes that will allow this to happen again. They need to reassure the public, look, we understand what we did wrong, and it’s not—and—and we have learned from this and it’s not going to happen again. You can trust us in the future.”
Of course, that does nothing. That’s the easiest thing to say: It won’t happen again (even though we won’t tell you why it happened this time). You can trust (but why?). We’ve learned a lesson (such as?) In fact, Lara Logan has already essentially done this in her ninety-second statement on Sunday, assuring viewers that “truth” is still her show’s highest goal. The views of the Rosenstiels will only bolster the chances that, in fact, this sort of thing will happen again, and again.
And for the larger picture, let me recommend Amy Davidson’s post at The New Yorker.
Greg Mitchell surveys major criticisms of the “60 Minutes” Benghazi story.