Precinct 333

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Dan Rather And CBS News Violate Their Own Standards

Dennis E. Powell does a book report about an interesting book he owns.

It's called "The White Book," at least informally. More formally, it is called CBS NEWS STANDARDS, and is a product of an outfit called the CBS News Division. It contains the standards and practices that the Columbia Broadcast System supposedly requires of its of those who gather and report the news for CBS Evening News and other news shows on the network. It seems relevant, given recent allegations against Dan Rather and others associated with the memo story.

Here is what the book says about anonymous sources, on page 37B:
"Anonymous sources should be used only when it is determined (1) that there is no other practicable way to obtain and report the information; (2) that the information is factual and of sufficient newsworthiness to warrant its use despite the fact that we cannot disclose its source; and (3) that the source and his information are highly reliable in the particular instance."

And it goes on.
"Where the use of an anonymous source is necessary, as much information as possible about the nature of the source should be provided to the audience, assuming, of course, that this information would not lead to disclosure of the source. Where the source may have a vested interest in the matter to be reported, it is especially important that information be provided as to the nature and/or motivation of the source."

The reporting in the memo stories and subsequent defenses of the stories seems to be in violation of these standards and practices.

Now I'll concede that Powell owns an older edition, since he left the network some years ago. But one would hope that the standards have not changed so dramatically that deception and obfuscation have become acceptable.


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