On Sunday, CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter offered a retrospective on 60 Minutes that was more of a puff piece, conveniently eliding any mention of Dan Rather’s attack on President George W. Bush in 2004 that was based on false documents.
Stelter was interviewing 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, who has just published a new book titled, Fifty Years of 60 Minutes: The Inside Story of Television’s Most Influential News Broadcast. After noting some of the highilights from the show, Stelter asked Fager, “Were there any low points?” How naive or uninformed does that sound?
Fager never mentioned Rather, instead focusing on 60 Minutes’ alleged reputation for fairness, for interviews that are “tough, direct but fair.”
People know if you’re being fair, or if you aren’t. If you’re coming from a particular place, the viewer sees that. You know, one of the rules at 60 Minutes and the original CBS News is never underestimate the viewer. It’s so important … I think one of the most important, if not the most important tenets of good journalism is to be unbiased, is to not go into the story with any pre-conceived notion. And that’s where mistakes happen in journalism. Someone goes in and tries to prove a point — you know, anything that comes up that’s mitigating, that might go against that point, they tend to discard.
As Tim Graham of Newsbusters noted:
Stelter certainly could have questioned how Fager could say their interviews were “tough.” We issued a Special Report titled Syrupy Minutes to underline how supportive CBS interviewers were with Democrats, especially Steve Kroft’s interviews with Barack Obama.