It Turns Out the Tiffany Network is More Like Zales

I’ve been perusing the various respectable online news sources since last week’s on-air “apology” by Lara Logan of 60 Minutes. I mostly wanted to revel in the pronouncements about the lost credibility of 60 Minutes on account of it being duped by a source in its reporting on the Benghazi attack. I’m an ass like that.Benghazi-Bungled

Ever since the famed investigative news magazine on Oct. 27 aired a look-back on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya, media critics and Media Matters have been pushing the organization to account for a mammoth discrepancy between stories told by a security official, Dylan Davies, told to his supervisors and what he sold to Lara Logan .

And make no mistake, I didn’t misspeak..it was all about the money. It’s no coincidence that CBS subsidiary, Simon & Schuster,who through their own subsidiary, Threshold Editions, published Mr. Davies’ book on October 29th; meaning all of the above had a vested interest in pumping up the story to attract RWNJ dollars.

In that broadcast, “60 Minutes” presented a lengthy interview with Davies, who said he had witnessed some of the events that night. Given the magnitude of the implications for  “60 Minutes” reputation, once the Washington Post and the New York Times began digging into the accounts given in the 60 Minutes story versus the testimony Davies had given to government officials, New York Times reported that Davies had “told the F.B.I. that he was not on the scene until the morning after the attack.” His account to the FBI, noted the Times, was consistent with the report to his supervisors.

Ooops.

You might assume that the news magazine would have issued an immediate release expressing alarm at the disclosure and vowing to investigate. It didn’t.

“60 Minutes” instead proclaimed that it was “proud” of its story. Pride comes before the fall, as they say.

Most of the criticism I read had the strange quality of being entirely able to discount all the other times over more than 40 years that 60 Minutes has blown a story and then, after great denial and then great self-flagellation, and, as well, after being beaten up across the competitive news world, continued on.  But the general consensus, both in the U.S. and abroad, seemed to be that this one would surely be the coup de grâce.

It also struck me as a peculiar assumption that 60 Minutes, once the crème de la crème of television news–and among the most eminent (not to mention self-congratulatory) voices of influence in the US–was still a revered establishment luminary of journalistic acumen, albeit worthy and set for a takedown. Bullshit!

The “Tiffany Network” Has Turned Into Zales

 

The more curious question may be not so much about the procedures, good will, and fate of 60 Minutes, but about the bizarre and cognitive dissonant world that “media people” live in such that they continue to think that a mistake on 60 Minutes is an earth- (or at least industry-shattering) story. Get a clue broadcast media. Most of us stopped watching you a long time ago…like when the internet became more reliable, if one can wrap ones skull around that idea.

The world the broadcast media instinctively lives in is, of course, the world it would like to live in, but predictably, can no longer attain since coming under the boorish thumbs of the networks’ entertainment, rather than news, divisions. It is a world that actually once existed, and was probably best represented by 60 Minutes, the ultimate expression of the Tiffany Network, the heir to Murrow, and the center of civic attention on Sunday evenings across the nation for a generation or two.

60 Minutes managed to combine not only the importance of network news, but its great resources, tenacity, and best and brightest, to showcase not just news reading, but investigative reporting, and to make television journalists into adjudicators and truth tellers. The success of 60 Minutes actually changed things. Presidents, world leaders, negligent companies, temperamental celebrities, could not only afford to ignore it –they frequently had to genuflect to it.

It was, and will never reach this height again, the epitome of media influence and power – journalism at its most inspiring and splendid.

It is that world, with its inherent arrogance and entitlement, that was taken to task when, in the past, 60 Minutes made one or another of its big bungles.

To wit:

  1. Its report in the 1980s on the Audi 5000 and how the brake seemed to accelerate the car, seemingly on its own. 60 Minutes was even duped into showing bogus footage from a rigged test.
  2. There was Brown and Williamson, where 60 Minutes failed to support its source, producing a storm of condemnation for 60 Minutes, the smug, self-aggrandizing Mike Wallace and eventually a feature film.
  3. There was Rathergate – President Bush’s national guard record and another bad source, and the end of Dan Rather.

The response to the Bogus, Bagger, Benghazi report is that it has some of the same standing as these other memorable screw-ups.

Moreover, it illustrates the new philosophy, that there are two LEGITIMATE political sides to every modern journalism error. The original flawed report favored the conservatives trying to build a case against the administration over the Benghazi incident; the undone report now favors the liberals. It is an audience of alternative sides – both relatively small, but unmistakably passionate.

Curiously, the present 60 Minutes scandal seems to track the plot of HBO’s Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom, wherein an overzealous reporter embellishes a report that had the potential to bring down the government. The problem with that plot, making it almost ridiculously unwatchable, is that the network news (The Newsroom is actually about a cable station but one must assume that Sorkin knows the difference between cable and network) is still as described above: that is, watched, and taken seriously by a sizeable part of the nation.

There is, of course, no reasonably intelligent person watching the network news if they are interested, even in the slightest, in investigative journalism.

Media people nevertheless continue to have an inflated and self-interested idea of the media’s importance.

If you are conspiracy minded, and obsessive in a prejudiced and unhealthy manner, Jay Rosen’s blog will give you all you need, and set the stage for all suspicions that might ever be cast. This is 60 Minutes of days past, a secretive and unaccountable power center, in crying need of media watchdogs.

Likewise Lara Logan, the correspondent who did the ill-advised interview, is, in the efforts and maledictions of liberal media, what Glenn Greenwald is to conservative media – at least for this week.

So, we have Benghazi, an issue that was supposed to put a nail in the heart of the Obama administration, and yet failed to get any electoral traction, and a news show that has merely a small part of the influence and authority it once had. And then we have a small group of people, invested conservatives, dedicated liberals, and media’s mythical warriors, relishing their agendas and obsessions.

Next time you watch ANY network news, hoping to get the straight scoop on an issue of importance, remember who these media moguls are:

Mickey Mouse(Disney) = ABC

Comcast (The cable people who unapologetically never show up when they say they will) = NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC

The remnants of Viacom (and who’s president is married to Julie Chen of Big Brother “fame) = CBS

Elmer Fudd (Time/Warner Brothers) = CNN

Barnum and Bailey (Rupert Murdoch) = FOX

You’ll probably get more investigative journalism watching WWE RAW. At least when they call themselves “Professionals” they understand that it’s really a joke for rubes and country bumpkins.

60 Minutes is still living in their self-made bubble, even though the rest of us have moved on.

 

Harvey Gold

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