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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

They knew better. Last September's CBS 60 Minutes report on President Bush's National Guard service provides plenty of examples for journalism classes -- examples of the "don't do this..." variety.

If you haven't been following the story, today's New York Times report is a good place to start. In a phrase, it says the CBS story was "both factually discredited and unprofessionally produced.":

Post-Mortem of a Flawed Broadcast. An independent assessment of CBS's report on the president's military service is a major blow to the news operation's credibility. By Bill Carter. [NYT > Home Page]

Viacom, the network's parent, dismissed the veteran producer who prepared the segment, and demanded resignations of several executives. Here's the CBS story.

For other treatments, see Fox, CNN -- and many more at the Poynter Institute.

Online journalism note: Most sites, like the Times, have excerpts from the report and links to PDF files of the full document and the CBS response.

From the "there must be better news..." department: The Boston Globe's ombudsman, Christine Chinlund, reports a major reduction in errors by her paper in 2004, when compared to 2003. Although 2003 was the worst year ever and 2004 wasn't that much better, there's still room for optimism, Chinlund said:

So what does all this tell us? That the Globe staff was more accuracy-conscious in '03 than the year before? Probably. That it was still more error-prone than it was in, say, the 1990s... or just that, with time, it's more willing to run corrections? Maybe, on both counts.
It's impossible to know what drives the annual fluctuations, although a lower tally is certainly a good thing, given that the paper corrects all known errors.

The Globe's news library staff made that report possible, and the NewsLib Blog pointed me to the story. Reporters are lucky to have news librarians, and it's great to see them get credit for their work.

9:08:34 AM    

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