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CBS News Reporting - Bloggergate?

In an effort to shift the spotlight from the blatant attempt by Dan Rather and his minions on the ‘CBS Evening News’ and ’60 Minutes’ to influence the 2004 Presidential election, and to minimize the damage done by 'Rathergate' to CBS’ credibility, an article written by David Paul Kuhn, chief political writer for CBS News.com is looking to the blogosphere. He begins:

Internet blogs are providing a new and unregulated medium for politically motivated attacks.

As compared, of course, to the ‘regulated’ political attack by CBS’ Dan Rather in which he presented, without adequate fact-checking or corroboration, forged documents questioning President Bush’s National Guard service? Even though the documents were proven forgeries, Rather, while in the middle of his apology for presenting forgeries as ‘the gospel by Dan’, continued to certify, without a shred of evidence, that the underlying message in the forgeries was correct.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.

The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.

Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican candidate.

No laws have apparently been broken. Case precedent on political speech as it pertains to blogs does not exist. But where journalists' careers may be broken on ethics violations, bloggers are writing in the Wild West of cyberspace. There remains no code of ethics, or even an employer, to enforce any standard.

Does case precedent exist as it pertains to filmmaking? If Mr. Kuhn saw Fahrenheit 9/11, he should be able to write of his great concern about the code of ethics displayed in that gem. Perhaps he is waiting for the Academy Award nominations to be announced before he expresses his outrage.

At minimum, the role of blogs in the Daschle-Thune race is a telling harbinger for 2006 and 2008. Some blogs could become new vehicles for the old political dirty tricks.

Like all media, blogs hold the potential for abuse. Experts point out that blogs' unregulated status makes them particularly attractive outlets for political attack.

Mr. Kuhn, being ‘employed’ by CBS News, must certainly understand the difference between ‘news’ and ‘punditry’. ‘News’ as presented by CBS should generally be ‘the facts and nothing but the facts’, with the audience left to decipher the message and make up it’s own mind. ‘Punditry’, the ‘op-ed’ page of television and the internet, generally displays the author’s bias right up front with little left to the imagination. Dan Rather, esteemed anchor of the CBS Evening News seems to have missed that course in journalism school.

Consultants are usually hired to give their opinions, advice, and talking points to, not take them from, a candidate. Jon Lauck and Jason Van Beek, who just happened to have weblogs where they were free to ‘pundit’ away, were paid political consultants and the Thune campaign correctly reported said payments to the Federal Election Commission. No laws were broken and nothing was hidden.

Mr. Kuhn must also realize that there is a difference between being employed by someone and accepting a contribution from someone. CBS News, by employing Mr. Kuhn, generally has a right to tell him what to write and after he has written it, has a right to change it, air or publish it, or throw it in the trash. The choice belongs completely to the CBS News. They own his work product and the right to do with it as they see fit. A contribution may encourage a particular message begin or continue, but the contribution doesn't guarantee said message.

Did Senator-elect Thune (has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?) and/or any entity of the Republican Party own the weblog Daschle v. Thune or South Dakota Politics? If they did, said ownership would have had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission, and I’m sure CBS would have reported it to us.

As an interesting aside, on November 30, 2004, Joh Lauck discontinued his blog and joined Jason Van Beek at South Dakota Politics.


Posted by Rick | December 11, 2004 04:27 AM

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