CBS News Blog “Public Eye” Comes Down on NewsBusters Report

Vaughn Ververs of the CBS News blog “Public Eye” critiqued a NewsBusters post today concerning a report made by the “CBS Evening News” last night about the former 9/11 commission’s newly released report card on the government’s response to homeland security issues. Ververs apparently asked correspondent Robert Orr and producer Ward Sloane for their opinions on the NewsBusters analysis: “The ‘news’ in the former 9/11 Commission's briefing was not that the U.S. is doing a very few things right, but rather that four years after the attacks, the U.S. government is largely failing in its very expensive $100 billion attempt to prevent another one.”

Although this might indeed be what the mainstream media perceived as the “news” in this briefing, the reality is that there were a total of 41 categories that the former commission graded the government on, and this CBS News report only shared some of the the “D’s” and the “F’s,” while totally ignoring all of the “C’s,” “B’s,” and “A’s” that the government received. Aren’t these grades “news” as well? Shouldn’t the public be informed as to what the government is doing properly to protect them from terrorist attacks, or are only the failures “news?”

In addition, Orr and/or Sloane are conveniently missing the fact that twelve “B’s” and one “A” represent 32 percent of the grades given. As such, this is not a “few things right.” Quite the contrary, this means that in almost one third of the categories measured by the former commission, the government scored well. Once again, shouldn’t the public be made aware of this?

They proceeded: “Anyone who takes the time to review the statements and report card will find repeated and plaintive warnings that continued inaction puts all of us at risk. If there was "good news" in the briefing, it was relegated to footnotes.”

This statement is specious at best. The “statements” link above that was included in Verver's blog post demonstrated that on page one of this press release, the former members of this commission identified homeland security accomplishments, and they were not listed as “footnotes”:

“So what has been accomplished?

“Last December, the President signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the most sweeping reform of the Intelligence Community since 1947.

“Pursuant to that law, there is now a Director of National Intelligence.

“There is now a National Counterterrorism Center."

In addition, the "report card" link in Verver's post specifically identified all of the 41 categories addressed by the former commission, including the 32 percent that the government received a “B” or higher on. Did this fact escape Orr and Sloane?

They continued:

 “Finally, the so-called "remedy" NewsBusters refers to is no remedy at all. There is a pending budget bill that would help fix the radio communications problem, but not until 2009. Even then, the F would change only to a C. Even if it passes, 2009 would be eight years after 9/11. Does NewsBusters know something about the timing of the next attack that the rest of us don't know?”

Pardon me, but that’s quite beside the point. The reality is that there is indeed legislation pending concerning this issue. Isn’t the public entitled to know that this is indeed the case? Moreover, another of the “F’s” given in this report will be raised to an “A” if pending legislation is passed. This, too, was not included in the broadcast in question. Is this also not “news?”

Ververs concluded: “Everyone can decide for themselves what they think of this exchange but, for my money, a “C” average on homeland protection still wouldn’t be making any honor rolls.”

Frankly, I don’t disagree with this point of view. Every American would prefer that our government was getting “A’s” on all aspects within their purview, certainly including homeland security. However, when a news agency reports on the progress concerning such federal efforts, Americans deserve more than just being informed about what the government is doing wrong. If news agencies aren’t going to also share with the public what our government is doing right, then why bother reporting it at all?

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War on Terrorism 9/11 CBS Journalistic Issues
Noel Sheppard's picture