I do. Suppose the documents were faked by the Kerry campaign, or someone trying to keep the president from being re-elected. That possibility was on the mind of the unnamed producer, who told the magazine, "There are at least two people in this building who have insisted we got copies of these memos from the Kerry campaign by way of an additional source."
Could the timing of the story have something to do with presidential politics, since CBS reportedly has been working on it for more than three years? Reports about Bush's National Guard service and allegations of favored treatment go back to at least 1994, when he was running against Ann Richards for governor of Texas. Why are they making another comeback this close to the election and without the proof that journalism of another era most likely would have demanded?
I called some contemporaries from my youthful days at NBC News. Former NBC News president Reuven Frank told me, "I don't think this story was sufficiently checked out. Everything today seems to be a publicity stunt, not reporting." Former NBC and ABC correspondent Herbert Kaplow blames the CBS fiasco on "a loss of important (journalistic) disciplines. Too many reporters now just use one source and don't check out other sources. Journalism has been affected by cable TV, and many don't seem to care if they are right."
The good news in all of this is that the former media gatekeepers can no longer keep the information gates closed. From Internet blogs to talk radio to cable TV, too many are watching and have access to outlets through which they can send the truth -- or at least other opinions -- to an audience hungry for other views and different sources.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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