“Rather’s Ruin”

A couple of days ago, we quoted from an article on Rathergate by Chris Weinkopf in American Enterprise. Reader James Phillips points out that it’s now available online, here:

Seldom in the course of a Presidential campaign does a media drama upstage the election itself, but for a short while in September, Americans tuned out politics and tuned in to “The Decline and Fall of Dan Rather.”
The drama began when CBS posted forged National Guard documents on its Web site and, that same evening, an attentive “Freeper” (a regular at the conservative FreeRepublic.com Internet site) named Buckhead raised suspicions of fraud.
From there, intrepid bloggers Powerlineblog.com and Little Green Footballs, the Woodward and Bernstein of Rathergate, began to document the mounting signs of forgery.
By the next afternoon, the country was abuzz. Rather and his supporters denounced those who questioned the credibility of the anti-Bush memos as “partisan political ideological forces.” Former CBS News executive Jonathan Klein infamously dismissed the truth-telling bloggers as “a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks.” But thanks to the cyber sleuths, it was soon obvious that the memos were phony.
This was not a complicated case: Within hours of CBS’s airing of the story, some gifted amateurs in Middle-western suburbs [Ed.: Ouch!] had proven that the documents could not be genuine. CBS had enthusiastically embraced the flimsy claims that Bush had failed to live up to his National Guard duties simply because most everyone in the elite-media circle wanted to believe them.
But as “The Decline and Fall of Dan Rather” showed, reporters who derive evidence from their political conclusions, instead of the other way around, won’t have free rein anymore. Thanks to blogs and other “new” media, the prejudices of the old media princes will no longer go unquestioned.
It’s about time.

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