Monday, September 8, 2008

Rathergate remembered

Four years ago today, Sept. 8 2004, Dan Rather aired his infamous and decidedly false 60 Minutes Wednesday piece on CBS. It ultimately caused his own ouster from CBS Nightly News, not the piece’s intended victim, President George W. Bush. It was a cataclysmic event, forever shattering the MSM’s sacrosanct position as the sole arbiter of news. The internet effectively challenged CBS and won. Two events involving the internet have shaken the MSM like no others. Both involve patently liberal bias. And both were victories for the internet. The first was the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton sex and perjury story. Newsweek had the story in type ready to run, and spiked at the very last moment. Two days later Drudge broke it and you know about the rest. Instantly Matt Drudge was a household name, and the Drudge Report at or near the top of the ratings. It became the go-to site for so many, including media types, for top news headlines. The second and most important was Rathergate. Within hours of airing a documentary asserting Bush had shirked his duty in the Texas Air National Guard and received preferential treatment, conservative voices challenged the documents CBS had posted on its website documenting the segment’s assertions. A lawyer from Atlanta posted on Free Republic questioning the typography in the documents, pointing out it appeared to be Times New Roman a photocomposition typeface, not in use on typewriters. He also questioned the variable spacing and superscript in the memos. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs went one better. To him the documents looked like they had been composed on a modern day computer. So he retyped one of them in MS Word in the default settings. He then superimposed his over one of the Killian documents, and except for distortions from Xeroxing it multiple times, they were identical in typeface, spacing and line breaks. Instantly a firestorm ensued from conservative blogs. Drudge steered readers to them. Lightly read blogs such as Powerline, Captains Quarters,and Little Green Footballs became instant hits. They chimed in with their expertise overwhelming the timid coverage of the MSM. New blogs started such as Rathergate concentrating on this one issue. Of the MSM, only the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and ABC News gave it serious coverage. The New Your Times covered it with wire service reports and an occasional article by Frank Rich, their uber liberal art and TV critic. The rest is history. After 12 days (Sept. 20), CBS publicly repudiated the validity of the documents. Rather also made a public statement in part saying, “if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired.” Subsequently an independent panel, commissioned by CBS came to the conclusion the segment shouldn’t have aired. Precisely 26 weeks to the day after the segment ran, Rather had his last day anchor chair of CBS Nightly News.
It is my understanding will be giving a day by day repeat of coverage as it happened four years ago. The media still doesn’t appreciate how badly it is perceived. makes sure the reading public knows it. Follow what happened four years ago there.

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