CBS Blogger Fails (Again) to Push CBS Execs on Fired Producer's Name

CBS's "Public Eye" editor Brian Montopoli punted yet another golden opportunity to press a CBS News executive (Linda Mason pictured at right*) on why the network won't name the producer it fired in early April for plagiarizing a Wall Street Journal column.

You will recall that the New York Sun reported on April 12 that Melissa McNamara, who also edited CBSNews.com's "Blogophile" blog, was fired for basing her script for a Katie Couric vlog entry on a Jeffrey Zaslow column.

On April 13, I wrote that Montopoli appeared "to have given up the fight with the execs in his network" after he failed to press CBS executives over their secrecy. Montopoli concluded an April 10 entry by merely accepting the company line:

The April 4 Notebook has now been removed from the site. Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, declined to comment about the specifics of the matter. "The Editor's Note speaks for itself," said Sims.

Nearly one month later, Montopoli is still content to not press the suits at his network as evidenced by his latest interview with CBS News Senior Vice President for Standards and Special Projects, Linda Mason.

Here's the relevant part of his interview with Mason, posted May 10 on "Public Eye." You'll notice Montopoli never mentions the New York Sun's reporting, never presses Mason on why the producer wasn't named, and lets her hint that CBS News should be held to a lower standard than traditional print and broadcast journalism (emphasis added):

Brian Montopoli: Recently, as you know of course, a producer was fired for writing a Notebook that was in part lifted from a Wall Street Journal piece. What actions, other than firing the producer involved, has CBS News taken in response to that?

Linda Mason: That's something that happened a month ago, and I'd just as soon pass. We've taken – we think we have fixed the situation.

Brian Montopoli: Has there been any change in reminding people about standards? Has there been anything like that?

Linda Mason: Well, every time something like this happens, whether it's at CBS, the New York Times, NBC, ABC, yeah, we sit down and say, "Hey, we've gotten a little too complacent, we have to pay attention to these things." Absolutely.

Brian Montopoli: And so did that entail a company-wide refresher course?

Linda Mason: There wasn't a refresher course. It was ironic because I was scheduled to give a standards session to the Web at that very time, right before it happened…

Brian Montopoli: But that would have happened either way.

Linda Mason: That would have happened either way, yeah. It wasn't spurred by that event. It was spurred by, as I went through the different groups who I had not yet reached, the Web was one of them.

Brian Montopoli: Is the notion that CBS News has credibility beyond what maybe a blogger has particularly important to maintaining its popularity and success?

Linda Mason: I think a blog and CBSNews.com are two different things. I think a blog tends to reflect the opinion or opinions of the people putting out the blog. It in no way strikes to be fair and measured. It's putting out that viewpoint, I think. And I think that CBSNews.com is trying to put fourth the whole story. So I think there's a real difference.

Brian Montopoli: And do you think people understand that difference?

Linda Mason: I don't know.

CBSNews.com trying to put forth the whole story?! That was a perfect opportunity for Montopoli to ask why the full story on McNamara wasn't put forward, an opportunity he punted on.

Perhaps it's fair to ask if Montopoli is also punting on upholding "Public Eye" mission statement (emphasis mine):

Public Eye’s fundamental mission is to bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News — transparency that is unprecedented for broadcast and online journalism.
*picture via CBSNews.com

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters