- Talking Points Memo Editor and Publisher Josh Marshall called Lara Logan’s 90 Second, 60 Minutes correction “bogus.” And he put quotation marks around “correction.”
- New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman called on 60 Minutes to turn “its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why.”
- NYU Journalism Prof. and Pressthink Editor Jay Rosen tweeted that the two most “outstanding features” of the correction on the “CBS Benghazi debacle” was that it was in the passive voice — not really taking responsibility — and didn’t acknowledge that they only admitted they were wrong after other media outlets pressured them by running stories showing that CBS had been duped.
Background: On Oct.27, 2013 CBS ran a 60 Minutes segment reported by Lara Logan featuring a security contractor they identified by the pseudonym Morgan Jones (real name Dylan Davies) who claimed to have scaled the walls of the American Embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya during a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012 , rescued citizens, and saw the body of murdered ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Within a few days, other media outlets were questioning the veracity of Davies’ story and soon produced affidavits Davies gave the FBI and his employer contradicting the version of events he recounted to 60 Minutes. Last week, as the number of prominent members of the press and their critics grew CBS announced that it was considering making a correction. Logan went on CBS News This Morning on Thursday last week to say that 60 Minutes would indeed issue a correction, saying she had been “misled.”
The much anticipated 60 Minutes apology for failures in the reporting process that led CBS to report a hoax as news fell flat Sunday night.
It was too short, it didn’t answer any questions and it wasn’t really the apology media critics and political writers had hoped for.
In particular, Logan got slammed for failing to explain why she trusted Dylan Davies in the first place, what 60 Minutes had done to verify his story and how she and her producers had missed two separate documents that contradicted the version of events he portrayed on the program.
Other critics also demanded to know why the network, the newsmagazine and Logan herself defended the story for so long in the face of evidence debunking it.
New York Times television writers reported the scuttlebutt about debates among “veteran television journalists,” on whether 60 Minutes had damaged it’s reputation in the long term. Adding that some media critics had joined the rising chorus calling for an “independent investigation,” to find out how CBS screwed up so bad.
While veteran television journalists spent the weekend debating whether the now-discredited Benghazi report would cause long-term damage to the esteemed newsmagazine’s brand, some media critics joined the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America in calling for CBS to initiate an independent investigation of missteps in the reporting process.
NYT: “The apology lasted only 90 seconds and revealed nothing new about why CBS had trusted Mr. Davies…” http://t.co/UpsLUHFMZI
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 11, 2013
Stelter was referring to a piece CBS News did on its morning show Thursday, where Logan apologized and announced that the show would issue a retraction Sunday night.
Fox News denizen, conservative media critic and talking head Howard Kurtz also complained about the brevity of Logan’s apology, which came at the bottom of the program.
The retraction feels like it should have been longer, given magnitude of the mistake. Leaves many questions unanwered
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) November 11, 2013
Kurtz also indicated that he thought the apology spent too much time shifting the blame on to a source who duped them, while not explaining how that happened.
Lara Logan says her source Davies insisted he’d told her same story as he told FBI–but that was a lie. CBS put all its marbles on a liar
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) November 11, 2013
CBS owes its viewers “a detailed explanation,” of how their source was able to put one over on them so easily “at a minimum,” TPM’s Marshall wrote.
…when journalists deal with charlatans, it’s a tricky business because it’s usually a matter of proving a negative. You need to come up with evidence of various sorts that either proves or undermines their credibility. You seldom get so lucky as to have two independent pieces of documentary evidence that completely impeach the source’s account (first, his immediate reports to his employers and second, the later account to the FBI). Neither could have been that difficult for a news organization of CBS News’ size and heft to find since the Post and the Times got both within 10 days of the story airing.
I don’t know the players involved enough to know whether this happened because of bias, indifference, arrogance or wild sloppiness. But you can’t screw up much bigger than this. At a minimum there needs to be some detailed explanation of how this big a screw could have happened. And the comparison with the aftermath of the Rather/Bush Air National Guard debacle (largely deserved in terms of who was held accountable) speaks volumes.
A few thoughts on 60 Minutes/Lara Logan’s feebly bogus “correction” http://t.co/JUedT4SpMK
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 11, 2013
That sure contrasts CBS’s response to Dan Rather’s 2004 report on then-president George W. Bush’s National Guard service, which turned out to be based on faulty documents. That time the network did investigate, and fired four producers. Rather left his anchor job shortly after he admitted to flawed reporting. A more recent example of how a respected news show deals with getting duped comes to us from This American Life, which devoted an entire episode to parsing how it had fallen for Mike Daisey’s fabricated tale of his visit to a factory making Apple products.
A show w/ reporting legacy of 60 Minutes should have turned its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) November 11, 2013
Tonight’s apology by CBS will not deal in any serious way with its misguided response to the very legitimate questions that were raised about its Benghazi report. If I am wrong, that will be good news for journalism at CBS and I will happily report it in an update here.
Two outstanding features of the @60Minutes correction: written in the passive voice, edits out the role played by other news organizations.
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) November 11, 2013
- Logan: ’60 Minutes’ is ‘very sorry’ (politico.com)
- ’60 Minutes’ Briefly Apologizes For Benghazi Report: ‘We Are Very Sorry’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- ’60 Minutes’ Corrects Its Benghazi Story: ‘We Are Very Sorry’ (theatlanticwire.com)