An Undeserved Honor for CBS's Gonzales

Editors Note: April Mickelson is the pseudonym of a media insider working in a trade which cultivates whistleblowers but does not tolerate journalistic ones.

Los Angeles-based CBS News correspondent Vince Gonzales, a seven-year veteran of CBS News and a product of CBS's "Minority Training Program" has been named Journalist of the Year for 2005 by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The award was announced August 4th on the NAHJ website in a press release which reads in part:

Vince Gonzales’s portfolio of work is one of the most impressive in the broadcast industry. In 2004, his exposé of the Enron electricity scandal demonstrated his skill as an investigative journalist. Gonzales uncovered proof that Enron employees were stealing money from consumers during the West Coast energy crisis. His journalistic work led to one of the biggest business stories in US history and the eventual fall of Enron."

It's amazing NAHJ finds that Gonzales and CBS should be credited with leading the pack on the Enron story, when CBS and Gonzales did nothing of the sort and only repackaged for TV what the LA Times and many others had already reported. If you believe the press release issued by NAHJ you probably think the The New York Times's reporting on "Watergate" led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Unsurprisingly, NAHJ left out a number of stories Gonzales's "impressive" portfolio including a biased and sensationalistic 2003 series on the "darkside of homeschooling" detailing "how children nationwide have been put in danger, even killed while homeschooling."

Luckily for Gonzales and Barbara Pierce--his Los Angeles-based producer who really could be called Mini Mapes--the homeschooling story didn't ruin their careers, even though it did lead over 30 U.S. Congressmen to demand a retraction from CBS. Before things got too bad for both, others at CBS stole the spotlight with their actions that led to the whole "Memogate" fiasco.

The homeschooling series wasn't the first time Gonzales and Pierce's tendency to play fast and loose with the facts got them into trouble, though.

Earlier in 2003, the liberal CBS duo breathlessly claimed to have unearthed "secret orders to conceal sex abuse by priests." As it turned out, the document was authentic but hardly the earthshaking scoop that Gonzales implied. Subsequent news reports by better qualified journalists (such as the Washington Post's Alan Cooperman) revealed that Gonzales was stretching the truth. He never apologized despite calls from Catholic groups that he be fired.

As if that weren't enough, three years earlier, Gonzales and Pierce falsely stated that a videotaped beating of an elderly patient took place in a nursing home when in fact, the incident took place in a home care facility. Gonzales was forced to apologize after word got out.

NAHJ's kudos may not be an indication of what CBS might have in store for Gonzales, though. Two-thousand four saw him assigned to be the network's primary correspondent covering the Michael Jackson case. I'm not sure whether or not Gonzales considered that a promotion or a demotion, but I bet he'd rather have avoided the whole Jackson molestation trial if he had any say in it.

NAHJ and CBS should have higher standards for their "award winners."