Irwin Gratz, SPJ President, 207/874-6570 or firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS -- Society of Professional Journalists National President Irwin Gratz today issued the following statement about the report of the Independent Review Panel looking into CBS News 60 Minutes Wednesday reporting on President Bush's National Guard service:
This is a discouraging case of experienced news people trying too hard to "get it first," before "getting it right." Sadly, the report's findings provide ample support for CBS's action in dismissing four employees involved in producing the segment and overseeing that news production. The lessons taught today are those journalists should learn before they ever do a story: be suspicious, check things out, and if they fail to, do more reporting or kill the story. The shorthand is well known by journalists: "if in doubt, leave it out."
Perhaps the only silver lining is the report's conclusion that the panel "does not believe that political motivations drove the September 8 Segment." However, given the subject matter and the timing, those who believe it was politically motivated are unlikely to be convinced of this. It is why, in journalism, nothing quells suspicion like facts. CBS found too few to support its Sept. 8 story.
And while appointment of a new "standards executive" is a constructive step, the lessons of the independent panel will have to be followed by all CBS News personnel to be truly effective.