Integrity Matters
September 22 , 2004

CBS News fails its responsibility and the 'real news' test

Question: (E-139)

Dear Jim:

CBS has finally admitted to being duped and says it was wrong to air the "60 Minutes" episode accusing President George W. Bush of receiving special treatment in the Texas Air National Guard. I am disappointed and disgusted with CBS and with Dan Rather for what appears to be a lack of moral and ethical standards.

Are there no consequences for this reprehensible behavior? News is to inform and educate us. Without trust in the integrity of the news, how can our society survive?


Do not lose heart. The jury is still out on this recent chaos created by Dan Rather, CBS and "60 Minutes." Our system will know what is right and apply sound principles to abuses of power by any segment of the media, including television broadcasting.

We expect and deserve proper news coverage, and we want it available, all the time. Journalist-historian Richard Reeves was asked by a college student to define "real news," and he answered that real news is "the news you and I need to keep our freedoms." As readers, hearers and viewers of the current reporting of the news, what portion of what is presented to the public is essential for the retention of our freedoms? What percentage is entertainment, posing as news? What amount is editorial and biased opinion, masquerading under the banner of "news" that is "fair and balanced" information?

In the book Dan Halloran and I published this year, "Integrity Matters," we quote CBS broadcast veteran Walter Cronkite: "We can all take the hero's journey. It begins with a single step, the moment we stand up for something we believe in." Earlier in the book, we write: "In the early days of television journalism, news professionals such as David Brinkley, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite recognized the importance of honesty, courage and forthrightness.

Real news reporting is always about integrity, intelligence and courage. Integrity provides the platform for truth seeking. Intelligence builds the road to insightful, accurate and thorough research. And courage is a timeless quality and becomes all the more important when the government or any other institution of power and control is tempted to suggest the legitimacy of censorship. Dan Rather, CBS and "60 Minutes," instead of reporting the news that we need in order to keep our freedoms have themselves become the news. How sad for them.

Demand the "real news" -- the news you and I need to keep our freedoms. Demand that our televised news media make clear their choice of responsible journalism in preference to salacious entertainment. "Real news" is important, always has been, and it always will be. Integrity matters.

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