Communication Matters - our blog on trends and events


CBS got caught with a bad blog

The spat that erupted between the White House and CBS over a blog post this week has very little to do with politics, and a whole lot to do with how the media use bloggers and other independent contributers to fill out and spice up their Web sites.
In case you missed the recent dust up, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post provides an excellent summary in this article.
In essence, CBS News posted an online article by blogger Ben Domenech making assertions that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is gay. This was a timely post, as Kagan is said to be a leading candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
The White House denied the assertion, accused Domenech of shoddy work, including “plagiarism” and asked CBS to pull the blog off the Web site.
Like many media, CBS initially declined. After all, once published, broadcast or posted, it is difficult for media to withdraw coverage. It is the media’s role to be an independent, third party and government watchdog. Withdrawing coverage already in the public domain appears to be giving in to pressure, in this case, exerted by the White House. At the very least, recalling copy involves admitting a pretty large error.
As Kurtz reports, CBS eventually pulled the blog posting after “Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor.”
Bloggers have become increasingly important to mainstream media. Of course, the unavoidable in that relationship is the media are increasingly dependent on bloggers to provide accurate and fair coverage. Many do. But in this case, CBS seems to have been vulnerable to reporting that did not meet its standards.
Few media will criticize CBS for this one. To varying extents, they all are vulnerable to the same malady.

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