Rewriting Rathergate History

Just when I thought I’d seen everything that could be written on Rathergate, Columbia Journalism Review published this spectacularly inept account of the Rathergate affair.

The number of cherry picked items presented as “fact,” used out of context, or later proved untrue borders on the obscene. The amount of evidence and thoughtful research ignored (both for and against the authenticity of the documents) is likewise telling. While the author states that the practice of journalism by the mainstream media in this case was suspect, he provides precious little evidence of that assertion. He also completely disregards the fine work done investigating the story by ABC, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, etc. after bloggers put the story in play.

It does make me wonder if we might not see some of this kind of revisionist history in the long-delayed final report from the Thornburgh/Boccardi commission…

Here’s the message I sent to the author on his treatment of Haileygate:

Someone found a draft of his work on a publicly accessible university Web site, and it wound up on a conservative blog, Wizbang.

Bullshit. Get your facts straight. Haley was promoting the work publicly and Mapes was referring reporters to the work. It did not become a “draft” until after we found that his work was not done with a typewriter (as was implied), but with a poor cut and paste job in Photoshop. Only upon notifying his university of our concerns, did Haley attempt to quickly rewrite the document to explain our findings. He did this before we published our first story – that too is documented. Of course he didn’t bother to fix his clumsily pasted “th” and a host of other errors.

The blog, citing “evidence” that it had misinterpreted, called Hailey a “liar, fraud, and charlatan.” Soon Hailey’s e-mail box was flooded. Anonymous callers demanded his dismissal.

Again you completely gloss over the fact that his “research” was widely discredited on multiple occasions by multiple sites, including last month when Wizbang revealed that more of his exhibits were not what they were purported to be. You also fail to note that we retracted those three words, but nothing else (save a rumor about university funding of the research in a later story).

Update: Jim Lindgren, Meryl Yourish, Charles Johnson, and Roger L. Simon each address different aspects of the CJR piece.

Additional coverage at Instapundit.

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Via e-mail T.S. Allen writes:

I made the ill advised decision to read the entire article at CJR. You were far too brief and temperate in your comments. There are so many untruths in that article, as well as facts that were omitted, that it made my head spin. I am no document expert, rather an IT specialist with over 22 years working with computers. My immediate response upon seeing the memos was that they were done in Word. Add to that reaction that I was in the Coast Guard from 1976-2001, and during those 25 years I NEVER saw the Times New Roman font prior to widespread adoption of desktop computers. My recollections of the Navy and CG Correspondence manuals (those I regularly referenced) from that time are that Courier was the standard font, and we also had Elite as well as OCR for personnel documents. Additionally in the course of my duties I routinely saw Army and Air Force documents and correspondence.

Mr. Pein expects that I must discard what I know to be true, and suspend all logic, reason, and common sense to believe that these documents could possibly be real. I have personally come to the conclusion that for the documents to be authentic, there would have to have been a convergence of nearly impossible events so great in magnitude that it makes the big bang theory pale in comparison. He tosses Dr. Newcomer’s work aside like so much road kill, never mentions the serious questions raised by the document experts CBS used prior to airing the story, then cites Lt. Col Hodges as an expert source on “that little”th’.” This is the quality of work from an editor at a major journalism review? I’ve seen better work in the Weekly World News.

For me the icing on the cake was his regurgitation of the “fake but accurate” line. I can’t imagine any reputable journalist having the nerve to print that one.

And last but not least, he seems to completely miss the fact that a blog, unless it presents itself as an unbiased purveyor of news, has no obligation to be fair or balanced in presentation. All that should be expected from a blog is sufficient background work to ensure that the information published is accurate to the best of the blogger’s ability. CBS, as a network news broadcast, does have an obligation to be fair. Sadly it is one that they have long forgotten, and much of the public has forgotten CBS News as a result.

Thanks for your investigative work. Mr Pein needs to stop tilting and windmills.


Thanks, but no thanks
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