Time Out! How Is Obnoxious Eric Engberg An "Outside Voice" At CBS? (Updated)

Here’s a technical question for the folks at the CBS website Public Eye: Can you really call a feature "Outside Voices" and then feature a pile of former and present CBS employees? (They’ve featured former CBS man Leroy Sievers, and Craig Crawford, who’s presently paid by CBS to do spots on "The Early Show." How "outside" is that?) The latest feature comes from liberal-bias legend Eric Engberg, who sparked the entire lucrative Bernard Goldberg book career with his obnoxious attacks on Steve Forbes. The CBS website touts how we can all look forward with anticipation to "Expect to see more of him on Public Eye." CBS touts Engberg: "He was known as one of the most dogged and irreverent reporters in Washington, with one of the great b.s. detectors in the business." That’s CBS-speak for "bashed conservatives with unrestrained glee." See an old review of Engberg’s oeuvre here.

Here you can see that CBS News website emperor Dick Meyer, who was Engberg’s producer for years, still thinks bullying Engberg is fabulous. See how the same Engberg genius on a Tomb of the Unknowns story is also touted in Meyer’s CBS biography as the source of his journalism awards. (And don’t miss Meyer’s stint at Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen right before he was hired at CBS. Those kinds of resume items must help at hiring time.) I'll confess I also have a bit of personal history with Engberg, who sneered at me on the phone back in 1995 that I was a "lying little worm."

Engberg's point in his article was in reference to the Plame leak probe, that anonymous sources are overrated, and often used in a very un-public-spirited fashion. On this, we can agree. But if you spend time with this, don't miss how he fights with conservatives underneath on the message boards, fussing that one mocks hard-left muckraker I.F. Stone, who Engberg thinks was "a truly great journalist." Another poster says Engberg is the best thing he's read lately, along with the latest Huffington Post blab from Tom Hayden.

You do begin to wonder if CBS is going to keep proving its tilt toward liberals in its choice of outside contributors. Here’s the breakdown so far. I’d count the CBS News vets as liberals: Engberg, Crawford, and Sievers. The "outside" liberals also included Dan Kennedy, Jay Rosen, Tom Rosenstiel, and Bob Somerby. To those seven, there are only two conservatives: Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard and the blogger known as The Anchoress.

UPDATE: Without e-mailing him directly (he's a NewsBusters reader without prodding), Public Eye's Vaughn Ververs responded to my question today. He swears the list of outside voices is not biased, and is adding NRO's Stephen Spruiell to the list next. He asserts: "I would challenge Tim or anyone else to find for me another outlet that actively seeks criticism of the news organization they are connected with." This is fairly rare, and I applaud CBS News for having Public Eye (as I responded there.) But I cannot agree with Vaughn when he asserts that Engberg is somehow an equal-opportunity investigative reporter.  

I went looking to find the example Vaughn cites, that Engberg reported about the abuse of protective details in cabinet departments. On July 13, 1994, Engberg began a story:

The familiar portrait of the pinnacle of power: grim-faced federal agents ready to lay down their lives to protect the president, the vice president, Richard Rominger. Time out. Richard Rominger? The deputy agriculture secretary has bodyguards? Yep. Cabinet officials, a CBS News investigation shows, are getting a lot of bodyguarding, not from the Secret Service, but from bureaucracies they've built themselves...

"Records show that on a trip to Mexico, his agent's security duties included speeding Mr. and Mrs. Rominger's bags through hotels and airports with $ 20 tips, charged to the government as investigative expenses. HHS Secretary Shalala's security agent put in for an emergency car wash. And Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is protected by a $ 400,000-a-year security squad that accompanies him to dangerous places, like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and movie theaters. Agencies tend to be vague about the need for all this security, and there's a reason to be vague. There's been exactly one assassination attempt against a Cabinet officer in all history, and that was in 1865."

That's a good investigative story, and it's not protective of Democrats. But one example does not assemble an overall picture of fairness in Engberg's career. Ververs also cites examples of Engberg recalling Clinton's 1992 campaign promises, and a Nexis search for "Eric Engberg" and "Clinton" and "promises" and "1992" will find you two or three "Reality Checks" in eight years. Again, it doesn't prove a career of fairness.

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