Here’s the thing about an insider book that documents CBS (or ABC, or NBC, or PBS, or . . .) killing stories that make Obama look bad. One the one hand, if you’re paying attention, you think it’s interesting to hear about the insider info that proves it – but the evidence is so obvious just from watching them, it’s really little more than a footnote. Of course they kill anti-Obama stories. How do you know? Because you’re aware of them – Benghazi, the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious, etc. – and you don’t hear much about them on CBS.
So when Sharyl Attkisson writes a book explaining how this works on the inside, it’s sort of like looking at the lungs of a smoker who keeps coughing in your ear. What’s happening here is obvious. Do I really need to see how ugly it is in there?
And if you’re not exorcised over media bias, which most non-ideological people are not, then you probably don’t even care about this, let alone care to read a book (or read about the book) that exposes it for all the world to see. That’s why, I’d guess, CBS executives feel they’re on pretty safe ground trying to completely ignore this:
Moonves failed to answer repeated phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.
A secretary for David Rhodes, president of CBS News, immediately volleyed a Post reporter’s phone call to company spokeswoman Sonya McNail. Before the reporter could even ask a question, McNair curtly said, “We decline to comment. Thank you. Bye.”
“Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley’s assistant did not respond to numerous e-mails, and he didn’t return a call to his office.
Attkisson said in her book that under Pelley’s leadership at “Evening News,” her investigative pieces began getting killed regularly.
Former “Evening News’’ Executive Producer Patricia Shevlin, now a producer at “60 Minutes,” also didn’t return a call, with the CBS operator saying the top exec was too busy to talk to The Post.
Attkisson has claimed that after she complained that the network shelved several of her reports on Solyndra — the Obama-supporting green-energy firm that went bankrupt despite hundreds of millions of dollars in government handouts — Shevlin replied, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”
I’ve spent enough time in newsrooms to recognize a lot of this. Of course, news reporters have biases like everyone else, and the vast majority of them are definitely liberal. They don’t think of themselves as propagandists, of course, and in their own minds they simply think they’re exercising news judgment when they pursue certain stories and ignore others.
But what they don’t admit even to themselves, let alone to others, is that their ideological biases absolutely influence that news judgment. When they don’t hear anyone but right-wingers talking about Benghazi, for instance, they file it away as a right-wing narrative – and that’s very different from a real news story. If they go to town covering a story like that, their beat reporters are going to hear about it from other journos at the next press conference or council meeting, and they’ll come back to the newsroom pissed because they don’t appreciate being put in a position to defend why their station, network or paper is starting to sound like Fox News.
Do editors think about stuff like this when they make decisions about stories? They absolutely do, although they will never admit it.
Attkisson’s news judgment was clearly not aligned with the prevailing culture of the newsroom, and I’m sure she realized it. I’m just as sure that the resistance and blowback she got for her stories didn’t really surprise her all that much. She knows what CBS News is. She worked there 20 years. I’m sure she realized that if she kept pushing stories like this it would reach the point where the organization would simply start rejecting her. I’m not faulting her for trying. She was fighting the good fight. But she probably always realized that at some point she would end up walking away – and maybe writing a book.
The funniest thing about this is that, if CBS was covering a story about someone else accused of some sort of wrongdoing, they would be all over the party for not returning reporters’ phone calls or ignoring e-mails. But when it’s them?