We’ve Been Wrong About CBS

There is no doubt that CBS flubbed the Katie Couric / John McCain interview from earlier in the week.  I think we’ve been wrong as to the reason they edited this interview. 

To refresh our memories, here is the real Q & A (from the CBS transcripts):

Couric: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.

Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

They were out there. They were protecting these sheiks. We had the Anbar awakening. We now have a government that’s effective. We have a legal system that’s working, although poorly. And we have progress on all fronts, including an incredible measure of security for the people of Iraq. There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda’s not defeated. But the progress has been immense. And to not recognize that, and why it happened, and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary.

This is McCain’s edited answer as it appeared on CBS:

Sen. Obama has indicated that by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge, that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.

Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda’s not defeated. But the progress has been immense. And to not recognize that, and why it happened, and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary.

                (Emphasis added to the comments that appeared in both quotes)

My first thought was that CBS was intentionally covering up for a McCain gaffe.  For that to be true, CBS would have actually had to realize that McCain did, in fact, flub.  Here’s why this is doubtful.  We’re giving CBS’s fact checking department too much credit.  I don’t think they reviewed the tape.  I believe that they were told cut it down to a certain timeframe. 

More to the point of fact checking:  The networks used to keep their news and entertainment divisions separate.  Responsible reporting was a money losing operation.  Since the two divisions have merged, news departments are short-staffed and do not sufficiently fact check or provide true investigative journalism. 

If CBS had realized that they had McCain making a mistake like this, they could have aired it on all of their news broadcasts providing more publicity for their failing evening news broadcast.  Their situation is now made worse because another network has discovered this and has run with it creating plenty of embarrassment for the network.

There really could be only one reason why this answer was edited.  IT WAS BORING!  Look at what they cut.   He started with ‘I don’t know how you respond …”  Then he brought up Colonel McFarland.  Who?  What’s the Anbar awakening?  Sounds like a Samuel L. Jackson movie.  Then the answer droned on about something or other.  The fact is, we wouldn’t care what he really said.

Did the change make McCain look better.  Of course it did.  If it didn’t, his campaign would have complained. 

Look at what they added. 

Sen. Obama has indicated that by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge, that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.

That’s a sound bite.  They can play it all day long.  Then they included 2 sentences from the actual answer and concluded with:

There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda’s not defeated. But the progress has been immense. And to not recognize that, and why it happened, and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary.

They brought fear into this answer and we all know – fear sells.  Besides, it’s short and to the point.  Basically, it is all we can handle.  Let’s face it, if they aired the original comment, we’d be off checking on Brian Williams or maybe that rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond.

No, the truth is a sad commentary of what the networks think of their viewers.  Worse, they may be right.  We have short attention spans.  Anything longer than 30 seconds is too long unless it has certain buzzwords that we are expecting to hear. 

That also explains why the rest of us blog and get most of our news from on-line sources.

Advertisements

2 responses to “We’ve Been Wrong About CBS

  1. Plausible explanation … terrible journalism. And if they cut it on purpose, that’s contemptible.

  2. David Lieber

    You got it right. Everyone else jumped to sinister conclusions. My wife loves Katie Couric.