Rather Gone, Germaise Disciplined: Tough Day for TV News
I'm told the memo issued by management at WFTS-Ch. 28 regarding the whole thing was plastered all over the newsroom. Don basically agreed to submit to an interview in exchange for getting an interview with a local white separatist for a story in May-- confirming the setup in emails, a video clip and a signed release form. Of course, the separatist edited the video to make it look as if Don agreed with his philosopy and posted it on the Internet.
"After a thorough review of the events, we have determined the newsgathering process for the story had serious breaches of our company policy and our ethical and journalistic standards," the memo read, in part, saying Germaise would return to work July 16.
Though Germaise first insisted to me, and presumably his bosses, that he didn't agree to a quid pro quo arrangement, the separatist then posted all his evidence that Don knew what he was agreeing to and was enthusiastic about the arrangement. As this memo makes clear, however, Don was disciplined for making the arrangement, not for lying to his bosses or me -- suspended for a month starting last Friday. Blame corporate red tape for the delay between publicity over Don's actions and the punishment.
I'm told there's some anger at WFTS over the way our free tabloid tbt* handled my story -- the headline IDIOT was plastered on the front cover -- and I think they have a point. I tried hard in my reporting to present an evenhanded account, which was scuttled by a pointed headline and blurb in tbt* making fun of Germaise.
It is a troubling dynamic -- tbt*-style readers want us to draw the obvious conclusions in stories (I had quotes in which Germaise himself admitted he hadn't acted intelligently) but sometimes those conclusions take what some subjects believe are cheap shots at people already in difficult circumstances. Can a newspaper owned by a school for journalists which resists such practices also print a tabloid which crosses that line?
It started with stories placed in various high-profile media outlets announcing that CBS executives were downplaying their connection to longtime anchor Dan Rather, refusing to extend his contract. Then Rather himself provided interviews about his negotiations. And word leaked that his leading alternative job offer was from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's nascent HDNet channel.
Now, it's official. Rather is capping 44 years at CBS News still engulfed in the cloud of disrepute that colored his exit from the CBS Evening News.
Is it Karma for a guy who reportedly pushed out Walter Cronkite and elbowed aside Roger Mudd to get the top job? A final swipe for a dude who progressively became too weird for a TV audience to tolerate? Or an ignominious end for a top anchor and reporter who gave his professional life for the Tiffany Network's news division?
Since Rather has turned down my requests for an interview, I may not have those answers for a while. But CBS News has long wanted to put the stink of Memogate behind them, and I'm not surprised that a barely-ceremonious exit for Rather is part of the prescription. (Check Harry Shearer's wry aural satire on the whole situation here)
Courage, Dan. I've a feeling that's something you're going to need for a while.
DEGGANS PUNDIT ALERT
I'm on Ed Gordon's News and Notes after a long absence, discussing expaned police search powers, crime in New Orleans and Jay-Z's problems with Cristal. (Former St. Petersburg Times reporter Marcus Franklin busts open the Cristal controversy for the Associated Press here)