April 15, 2007

Couric Debacle Prompts CBS to Increase Web Quality Control

According to the New York Times, CBS news will be taking a closer look at its web content. This is a result of the Katie Couric library card plagiarism Video Notebook fiasco, which has spawned intense scrutiny by bloggers and others.

This site recently highlighted other video notebook entries that are questionable, including a background on Barack Obama, and Couric's undercount of Iraqi civilian deaths.

The CBS action was brought to my attention by The New York State of Mind blog site.

My original response to the Couric plagiarism incident
was to view it as just one more example of the slow devolution of American culture. I've probably spent too much time on this issue. However, it is worth people voicing their opinions to CBS News on this general state of affairs. To that end, here's a link to contact CBS News.

Contact CBS News:

Web E-Mail Form for All CBS News Programs

Evening News E-Mail: evening@cbsnews.com

CBS News
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-975-1893

LINK to Media Contacts in General


After Couric Incident, CBS News to Scrutinize Its Web Content

Published: April 12, 2007

CBS News said yesterday it planned to install a new level of editorial oversight to its Web site since revelations that the CBS anchor Katie Couric read a plagiarized commentary on the site last week.

CBS has fired the producer who wrote the piece for Ms. Couric, and said yesterday it was investigating to see if the producer, whose name CBS has not disclosed, had written any previous commentaries for Ms. Couric that had been plagiarized.

The commentary, about how children use libraries in a world increasingly dominated by the Internet, was clearly inspired by a piece written the previous month in The Wall Street Journal. A Journal editor called the similarities to the attention of CBS News on Monday, and executives there, reading the two pieces, immediately concluded that they were basically identical.

CBS News executives said they were stunned that anyone would so blatantly copy someone else’s work. The incident is an embarrassment for the news division, and comes at a time of continuing struggle for Ms. Couric’s newscast to be competitive with NBC and ABC in the evening-news ratings.

The videotaped commentary, which was used in a section of the CBS News Web site called “Katie Couric’s Notebook,” but which also was sent out for use by CBS television and radio stations, was removed from the CBS site, and the network issued what it called a correction, saying it should have noted that “much of the material” had come from the newspaper.

As described by Sandy Genelius, the spokeswoman for CBS News, the process of creating the 55-second essays that were included in the “Notebook” feature involved a meeting between Ms. Couric and a group of producers from the Web site and her going over dozens of suggested topics for the daily commentary.

Asked whether Ms. Couric had read the article in The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Genelius said, “I believe she did not.” Ms. Couric was not available for comment.

All television news anchors read scripts for their newscasts that are prepared by staff members, but the anchors almost always rewrite these themselves.

A spokesman for ABC News, Jeffrey W. Schneider, said that on ABC’s Web site commentaries were written only by the contributor whose name was on that commentary.

Allison Gollust of NBC News said she was not aware of any NBC Web contributions that were written by anyone other than the person whose name was attached to it. “We certainly do not have anyone on the staff whose job it is to write something like that for one of our anchors or correspondents,” she said.


estiv said...

Fact checking on items released by a new organization--what a concept. Oh wait, I thought that was part of the standard process for any reputable news organization.
This is sort of like finding out that a group of surgeons are saying, "You know, maybe we should sterilize the scalpels..."

jadegreen said...

Great reporting! I love the Technorati graphs as you note the connection between the two high profile problems at CBS: Imus and Couric.

I have a word-by-word detail of the changes on the Obama post on my blog:
hightechparent.blogspot.com Who made these changes? Who requested them and why? Those are really big questions.

Thanks for keeping up on this.

GDAEman said...

estive, your analogy is excellent. It wouldn't surprise me if the health care insdustry IS having similar breakdowns. That was the direction my first post on the Couric affair took, the erosion of American society.

It occured to me recently that it's as if kids are running the country today. The parents running the country back in the 1940s and 50s might have been paranoid, but at least they were mature professionals.

Jadegreen... I appreciate your site. I've often thought, if we're ever going to have a social movement (revolution?) in America, one thing that could inspire it would be parents getting sick of the way corporations treat their kids. Your site reminds me of that. We need more people like you.