Rather’s stubbornness casts him, CBS, profession in negative light

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

“CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather, in a recent report for henetwork’s “60 Minutes II,” reported in a piece critical ofPresident Bush’s National Guard Service – a report now widelybelieved based on forged documents.

While CBS News President Andrew Heyward says his networkcontinues to stand by the accuracy of Rather’s report, Rather’s “60Minutes” colleague Andy Rooney told the San Jose (Calif.) MercuryNews that he now believes the documents – the foundation of thereport – were falsified.

Even Rather himself said on this week’s “60 Minutes II”broadcast that he now believes the documents could be fake. He wenton to say – troublingly so – that he stands by his original report.While the authenticity of the documents may not hold up, thelongtime newsman said, the facts contained in them do.

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Confused yet? So are we.

The cornerstone of good journalism is digging up and reportingfacts while keeping agendas and personal beliefs out of it.

But what’s troubling here is not so much that Rather, a fixtureamong the liberal media elite – is taking pot shots at aconservative Republican president.

What concerns us most is that through his reliance on likelyforged evidence and, even more so, his stubborn refusal to admithis report may have been flawed, Rather calls into question thecredibility of himself, his network and, by extension, journalistseverywhere.

Yes, errors in reporting are made. We make them ourselves. Thedifference is that when we do make them and when they are called toour attention, we admit our mistakes, clear them up and move on.Unlike Rather and CBS News, we do not hesitate to correct orclarify wrong or misleading information.

Rather and his network owe a round of apologies – to thepresident whose record they have called into question, tohard-working, honest journalists who strive to report only thefacts and, most of all, to CBS viewers who now must wonder when, ifat all, they can take the anchor’s reporting seriously.