:: 1.07.2005 ::
More on so-called "Memogate"
Just found this great piece on the whole CBS memo debacle thru a link on Fark. It's on the Columbia Journalism Review site, and I highly recommend you slog your way thru the whole thing.
Haste explains the rapid spread of thinly supported theories and flawed critiques, which moved from partisan blogs to the nation’s television sets. For example, the morning after CBS’s September 8 report, the conservative blog Little Green Footballs posted a do-it-yourself experiment that supposedly proved that the documents were produced on a computer. On September 11, a self-proclaimed typography expert, Joseph Newcomer, copied the experiment, and posted the results on his personal Web site. Little Green Footballs delighted in the “authoritative and definitive” validation, and posted a link to Newcomer’s report on September 12. Two days later, Newcomer — who was “100 percent” certain that the memos were forged — figured high in a Washington Post report. The Post’s mention of Newcomer came up that night on Fox, MSNBC, and CNN, and on September 15, he was a guest on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes.
The upshot of it all? While Dan Rather et al may have been hasty and overly credulous in publishing their findings, the same (and much more), can be said for their most vociferous critics.
Newcomer gave the press what it wanted: a definite answer. The problem is, his proof turns out to be far less than that. Newcomer’s résumé — boasting a Ph.D. in computer science and a role in creating electronic typesetting — seemed impressive. His conclusions came out quickly, and were bold bordering on hyperbolic. The accompanying analysis was long and technical, discouraging close examination. Still, his method was simple to replicate, and the results were easy to understand:
Based on the fact that I was able, in less than five minutes . . . to type in the text of the 01-August-1972 memo into Microsoft Word and get a document so close that you can hold my document in front of the ‘authentic’ document and see virtually no errors, I can assert without any doubt (as have many others) that this document is a modern forgery. Any other position is indefensible.Red flags wave here, or should have. Newcomer begins with the presumption that the documents are forgeries, and as evidence submits that he can create a very similar document on his computer. This proves nothing — you could make a replica of almost any document using Word. Yet Newcomer’s aggressive conclusion is based on this logical error.
An independent investigation of the above found the following:
"These problems were caused primarily by a myopic zeal to be the first news organization to broadcast what was believed to be a new story about President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, and the rigid and blind defense of the segment after it aired despite numerous indications of its shortcomings," the panelists concluded.
Four senior staffers were fired after the report was released. Full story on YahooNews, linked by Fark.
Boccardi and Thornburgh said they could find no evidence to conclude the report — aired two months before Bush won re-election — was politically motivated.
:: Deb 11:00 AM :: permalink ::
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