The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Thursday, November 25, 2004
The cesspit that is 60 Minutes: a floater I hadn't heard of
In the light of Rathergate, I culled a small selection of past 60 Minutes snafus (September 17).
Dan Kennedy offers one I'd missed - the case of Carl A Galloway:
In a 60 Minutes program in December 1979, Galloway, a private Los Angeles medical doctor, was portrayed as a dishonest physician who had signed a false medical report on an insurance claim. Such an act would have been a violation of California law and a serious violation of medical ethics.
Galloway sued for libel - and lost because
Despite the fact that Galloway was a private physician, the trial judge gave the jury the New York Times v. Sullivan instruction.
Rather and 60 Minutes seem to have enjoyed a charmed existence. Incompetence, arrogance, untouchability: for decades, these icons of the American establishment foreshadowed the Bizarro World of the Bush Administration!
And, like the IRA, they haven't gone away, you know...
They offer yet more evidence against the proposition, commonly spouted by those wishing to reform American journalism, that its present dire state is something new - the result of 9/11 or the advent of Dubya.
As J-prof Jay Rosen who, addressing the proposition that
the impartial, unemotional postwar model of mainstream journalism simply may not be up to covering the current political climate,continues:
Not mainstream journalism the practice, but the contraption it has for explaining, situating and defending itself has in 2004 finally broken down, given out after 40 years of heavy, reliable use. And nothing did more damage to the taken-for-granted world of the American press than the shocks of September 11th. Part of the problem is philosophical, which almost guarantees a chronic lack of attention in newsland.
Forty years takes us back to 1964, a year when the press failed its readers in allowing a fatal escalation in the Vietnam War - notably, the retaliation on August 5 against the illusory second of the Tonkin Gulf Incidents - without doing anything approaching a plausible definition of journalism. (The kow-tow was every bit as abject as that Bush has enjoyed.)
For most of those 40 years, Sixty Minutes has been the broadcast champion of American journalistic vainglory and conceitedness.
Rather's ignominious fall  has served at least one purpose in putting a modest crimp in its ill-deserved reputation.
A 1984 interview of Rather from, of all places, Playboy perhaps gives a hint of the mindset of journos during Rosen's quarante glorieuses:
Playboy:...You yourself were one of the defendants in a suite brought against it by Carl Galloway...some interesting issues were raised. One of them is the notion that 60 Minutes has, to some extent, become a parody of itself--that, as former CBS News president Fred Friendly has said, it has become an entertainment show in which the avenging angels descend, throw a net around the bad guys and leave in a blaze of glory.
William Randolph Hearst had his Orson Welles: who'll do as much for Rather?
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