Cal  Thomas

Burkett certainly had a history of anti-Bush activities and statements, and Rather's anti-Republican pronouncements are legion and well-chronicled. The Wall Street Journal's John Fund wrote a piece for Opinion Oct. 4 in which he quoted a former colleague of Mapes at KIRO-TV in Seattle, Susan Hutchison, as saying that Mapes "went into journalism to change society. She always was very, very cause-oriented."

Fund also quoted Lou Guzzo, a former KIRO news commentator who served as counselor to the late Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, a liberal Democrat. Guzzo said he has no problem with advocates in journalism, "but if you're as liberal and activist as Mary and work on the news rather than the opinion side, it creates problems."

It certainly does and has for Mapes, for CBS News and for all of journalism, which continues to be distrusted by a significant percentage of the public precisely because many believe the media do, in fact, have an agenda and that it mostly favors Democrats and liberal political and social ideology.

The Thornburgh-Boccardi report says, "It should be noted that '60 Minutes Wednesday' was hardly alone in pursing this story. Other mainstream media, including USA Today, The New York Times and the Associated Press, were pursing the same story in what was clearly a competitive race to be first."

What is this, a doctrine of "innocent by association"? That other media organs were pursing the same story - a story that had been worked on for years by Mary Mapes, who suddenly thought she had enough to justify going with it just before a national election - is not an excuse, or even a satisfactory explanation for CBS's decision to broadcast it.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism (now there's a worthy, but probably unattainable goal), had it right when he commented that the report  doesn't say what CBS will do to change the climate that led to this outrage.

While the report recommends certain structural changes within the news division, such as naming a standards and practices executive, reducing competitive pressure, telling senior management the names of confidential sources and appointing a separate team to look into disputed news reports, there were no recommendations about changing the ideological biases inherent at CBS News.

CBS won't say if it will act on those recommendations, because CBS sees no bias, hears no bias and speaks no bias. End of story. But the public sees it, which is one reason why CBS News remains dead last in the ratings.

Cal Thomas

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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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