Kathleen Parker

The CBS mess variously known as "Forgerygate" or "Rathergate" is by any other name a seminal moment in the blogosphere that holds promise not only for revolutionizing journalism, but also perhaps for problem-solving on a global scale.

And why not?

Still in relative infancy, the blogosphere - that new galaxy within the journalism universe wherein citizen journalists known as bloggers (short for keepers of Web logs) chat among themselves through mutual links and commentary - has defined itself in large part as a vehicle for challenging the mainstream media (MSM).

Bloggers love fact-checking television and newspaper reporters and commentators, for instance, and have proved themselves both energetic and competent on both fronts.

They've been credited with challenges that led to the retirements of both Sen. Trent Lott as majority leader upon his waxing nostalgic for Strom Thurmond's good ol' Dixiecrat segregationist days and Howell Raines as editor of The New York Times following the Jason Blair debacle.

But the piece de resistance has occurred over the past several days as bloggers questioned the authenticity of documents CBS News presented allegedly proving that President George W. Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard.

This is where most sensible people start nodding off, but the larger drama of the Blogosphere v. CBS is sufficiently compelling to stay awake. What happened is perhaps familiar by now:

The documents CBS presented supposedly came from the personal files of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, which Killian supposedly typed more than 30 years ago. Rather and 60 Minutes II vouched for the authenticity of the documents, one of which claimed that a Texas Air National Guard squadron commander was trying to "sugarcoat" Bush's record.

Cumulative evidence produced primarily by the blogosphere suggests that the documents are forgeries and that Rather and CBS were duped in a political hoax.

Through the weekend, Rather was still sticking by his guns despite the fact that many of CBS's sources for the story have distanced themselves, while other news organizations have produced reports lending credence to the hoax theory.

Both Killian's son and widow, for example, say they doubt the memos are real, as Killian rarely typed. One of the sources CBS said would corroborate the charges said he was misled by the network.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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