CBS, the Chicago Cubs and the Ethics of Reporting

Captain Ed doesn’t think CBS chief Les Moonves has any idea what he’s doing after his announcement that CBS might replace Dan Rather with a multi-anchor team reporting from various cities. Ed writes, “Why would having four or five different people reading what other people write give CBS any more credibility than they have now? Granted, having Rather in front of a story automatically damages their viewers’ trust, but the same people making the big decisions still work at CBS News: Rather and Heyward. Until CBS admits its political biases and cleans house, everything they do will be suspect, no matter how many pretty faces they put in front of the camera.”

Ed’s not done there. He goes as far as comparing Moonves multi-anchor plan to “another sad-sacked organization” — the Chicago Cubs of 42 years ago. It didn’t work out so well for the Northsiders, explains Ed: “Faced with a long losing streak, the brilliant minds at Wrigley Field decided that instead of hiring a manager with some intelligence, they would create the College of Coaches (see 1962). The CoC consisted of eight baseball coaches with equal rank, and all decisions would be made by consensus. The Cubs used this system for two years, and it did have a dramatic impact: they lost 103 games in 1962, finishing below an expansion club, the Houston Colt 45’s (later the Astros).”

The Moderate Voice’s Joe Gandelman, perhaps unaware of the College of Coaches, embraces Moonves’ proposed plan. The “[b]ottom [l]ine,” according to Gandelman is that “CBS has to do something dramatic to put the Rather era behind it. But it’s not just that: Moonves is correct that networks have not yet adjusted to the 21st Century.” And shorter segments in a multi-anchor format is 21st Century, says Gandelman.

More on the media in response to Sarah Boxer’s New York Times Arts column on three Iraqi brothers’ pro-war blog. Jeff Jarvis isn’t shy in his critique. He thinks Boxer put the lives of the three brothers in peril by speculating as to their relationship to the CIA: “Sarah Boxer’s story on IraqTheModel in today’s New York Times Arts section is irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and — worst of all — dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk.” Ed Cone adds, “The credibility of the Iraqi bloggers — of any bloggers — is a reasonble subject for journalism. The Times could have written a credible article on this subject.”

Glenn Reynolds offers this take:

At the moment, the New York Times is in court, demanding constitutional protection for its sources. If they’re exposed, it fears, they may suffer consequences that will make others less likely to come forward in the future. That, we’re told, would be bad for America.

But the New York Times has no compunctions about putting the lives of pro-American and pro-democracy Iraqis at risk with baseless speculation even though the consequences they face are far worse than those that the Times’ leakers have to fear. It seems to me that doing so is far worse for America.

When journalists ask me whether bloggers can live up to the ethical standards of Big Media, my response is: “How hard can that be?” Not very hard, judging by the Times’ latest.

Finally, “despite what the Washington Post says today,” social conservative K-Lo isn’t so upset at President Bush for declaring that a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage will not be a top priority. “What is the most important thing for him to be doing?”, she asks. “Getting judges who can read the constitution in[to] office —y oung conservative non-activists.”

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.