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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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January 10, 2005

Why Does CBS News President Andrew Heyward Still Have His Job?

Posted by Ernest Miller

The report of the Individual Review Panel on the September 8, 2004 60 Minutes Wednesday segment, "For the Record," (234-page PDF, "CBS Report"), is a devastating indictment of CBS News' handling of their report on the forged Killian Memos. I followed the CBS News' response to criticism of the report and their unethical and incompetent response closely (Incompetent AND Unethical: The Story of CBS News' Response to Criticism of the Killian Memo Forgeries - Part One). I'll have more to say about the report later, but right now I wonder why CBS News President Andrew Heyward still has a job.

The report clearly shows that the head of the embattled news organization did not perform as one would expect the head of a news organization to perform. Though Heyward clearly realized that there were problems with the reporting on the segment and issued a directive to clear up the matter, he does not appear to have provided sufficient overview or leadership to ensure that his directive was followed promptly and systematically. Instead of focusing on good reporting, as the head of a news organization should, he seems to have been primarily interested in damage control and not following up on his own directive. Accountability seems to have been sorely lacking at CBS News, which is why I find Les Moonves statement on Andrew Heyward very puzzling (Leslie Moonves Issues Statement in Response to Panel Report [8-page PDF]):

This brings us to CBS NEWS President Andrew Heyward. The Panel’s report shows that before the segment was broadcast, Heyward explicitly warned West and Howard that “we will have to defend ‘every syllable’ of the segment and, as we mentioned earlier, specifically urged them not to allow the production team to ‘stampede us.’” In the aftermath of the report, he issued direct instructions to investigate the sourcing of the story and the authentication of the documents and pressed for his staff to come up with new and substantive information rather than merely standing by the story in a “stubborn repetition of what we’ve already said.” However, the Panel concluded that Heyward’s directives were not implemented in a prompt or systematic way.

This raises questions about accountability at CBS News – questions that will have to be addressed both by Andrew Heyward and me. We intend to do so. But Heyward is an executive of integrity and talent, and the right person to be leading CBS NEWS during this challenging time.

Where is the accountability for Heyward? Doesn't he have any obligation to ensure that his directives are being followed, especially when it is obvious that they are not? There were many opportunities for Heyward to take charge when it was clear his underlings weren't doing their jobs, but he did not.

Read on for the damning evidence...

Jay Rosen is also shocked Heyward has kept his job (After Trust Me Journalism Comes Openness: Rather Report Released):

My other major reaction is that I, too, am shocked the CBS News President Andrew Heyward has his job, and this is the reason.

As soon as the reporting of the Air National Guard story came under question, CBS News had not one but two problems. The problems with the story were one. The involvement--no, the immersion--of Dan Rather in the event was the other. Rather is the star of CBS News, the face of the brand, the personification of the new division. The anchor. Immediately it was clear that he "bigfooted" the rest of the division and took over defense of a case in which he was accused. Only one person could have seen the dangers for Rather, for CBS News and for the network itself in allowing Rather to become so involved in defense of the story, which muted everyone else "under" Rather, leaving only Andrew Heyward, who did not act. He was the one who could have protected the brand and his friend, Dan Rather, by speaking truth to power. The responsibility was his alone and he failed.

Glenn Reynolds calls Heyward's continued employment at CBS a "double standard" (Rathergate breaks).

Roger Simon wonders if Heyward's protection will hold up (Where They "Stopped the Buck" at CBS).

Rather than rehash the whole timeline, the 60 Minutes Wednesday segment had become a major news issue September 9, the day after it aired. On early Friday morning, September 10, CBS News Heyward sent the following email directive to Betsy West, Senior Vice President, Prime Time, CBS News. Actually, we don't have the whole email, only the portion quoted in the report:

Don’t we have to come up with OR SHARE more evidence rather than just “stand by” our statement? This is a direct attack on our credibility that will stick if we don’t come back as hard as possible – not by saying “we’ll investigate all allegations” (which of course we should), but by giving some indication WHY we’re so confident.

Specifically, let’s find out much more about Mary’s expert(s) on the authenticity of the papers. How many were there? Why are we keeping their names back? Did any of them raise these questions about typography? If not, why not? If so, how were they resolved? (I know we discussed a bit of this yesterday). The critical analysts have no problem going public. Why not the ones who agree with us? That’s not a rhetorical question, because maybe there’s a good reason, but it makes our position seem cryptic and arbitrary when I don’t believe it is.

You should also talk to Mary more about how she got the documents. At this point, we need to know more than we do. I read them again, and they seem plausible and very subtle if they are indeed “disinformation,” but is it possible that it’s a clever dirty trick by Rather-haters – a SETUP aimed at CBS? According to Stephanopoulos this morning, “some Democrats” are suggesting that, and it occurred to me as well, although it seems farfetched. Close questioning of Mary should shed light on that.

You also have to talk to Mary about what the Evening News does tonight. The Early Show did a tell on the controversy. But the EN broke the story even before 60; it seems odd not to address the controversy there. Since we believe strongly that we are on solid ground, that would be a great place to show why we think so, but it has to be done with specific information, not just stubborn repetition of what we’ve already said.

I think this can all be done without undercutting our own people. Your posture with Mary should be that since we’re confident in our reporting, we should be able to prove it. Let’s see how far we can go down that road.

Very nice, the sort of questions the head of a news organization should ask. However, as the report notes, this directive wasn't followed. Furthermore, it is obvious from the public statements and reporting of CBS News that this directive wasn't followed.

The obvious question is why Heyward didn't follow up when it was obvious his orders were being ignored or poorly followed. This question isn't answered by the report, nor by Les Moonves.

As the leader of a news organization, Heyward's responsibility goes beyond simply issuing directives, he is also responsible to see that the orders are followed. When it becomes obvious that they were not being followed and he did nothing, he became as responsible for the lack of follow through as anyone else. There were plenty of opportunities for Heyward to followup, but he did not.

From the report, page 161

As will be discussed below, the Panel concludes that this directive was not implemented in a prompt or systematic way. The Panel does not underestimate the storm that hit CBS News. However, there was no prompt, in-depth examination of the document authentication process or of the examiners used by 60 Minutes Wednesday. Similarly, there was no prompt, in-depth examination about how Mapes obtained the Killian documents. Instead, contrary to Heyward’s directive, there was more “stubborn repetition of what [CBS News had] already said.”
What? And Heyward didn't notice? You don't think that, after watching CBS News' reporting that evening, Saturday the 11th and Monday the 13th (two new "experts" day), he didn't notice that his directive might not be getting prompt and systematic attention? Heyward's responsibility for following up is ignored.

The Report notes that Heyward gave a short deadline for his directive. Page 161:

[Heyward] suggested that West seek answers by noon on September 10 if possible, if there were any possible difficulties with the Segment. [emphasis added]
It gets stranger:
Later on September 10, Howard would again express concerns to West, Mapes and Heyward about the Segment after speaking with Peter Tytell, an individual with extensive typewriter experience. At that time, Howard’s concerns again were not acted upon and thereafter Howard did not have a major role in the Aftermath, with West apparently taking the management lead and Mapes taking the production lead on follow-up stories that defended the Segment.
Note that Howard has been asked to "resign" for his role in letting the report go to air. Howard blew it in allowing the story to go forward, but he seemed concerned about the Aftermath and expressed those concerns to Heyward. So who was put in charge of the story? West and Mapes, who didn't express any concerns, though Heyward had asked West to answer the tough questions about sourcing and expert authentication.

"Just before noon on September 10," coincidentally the original deadline for answering Heyward's questions in the directive, CBS News issued the following press statement:

For the record, CBS News stands by the thoroughness and accuracy of the 60 Minutes report this Wednesday on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. This report was not based solely on recovered documents, but rather on a preponderance of evidence, including documents that were provided by unimpeachable sources, interviews with former Texas National Guard officials and individuals who worked closely back in the early 1970s with Colonel Jerry Killian and were well acquainted with his procedures, his character and his thinking. In addition, the documents are backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content. Contrary to some rumors, no internal investigation is underway at CBS News nor is one planned. We have complete confidence in our reporting and will continue to pursue the story.
A draft of the statement had been sent to Heyward at 10:36 that morning. "Thereafter, Rather and Heyward suggested some minor changes and the Press Statement was issued." The statement looks nothing like Heyward's directive earlier in the morning to show their confidence in their reporting through "specific information, not just stubborn repetition of what we’ve already said." Apparently, not even Heyward himself sought to implement his own directive. No wonder the directive "was not implemented in a prompt or systematic way." Heyward didn't seem to have any concerns about it himself. As the report concludes (page 165-6):
The Panel is troubled that such a Statement would be issued with no detailed internal discussion of the sources before calling them “unimpeachable.” Further, it is telling to the Panel that there similarly was no detailed discussion of what 60 Minutes Wednesday’s examiners had done and could be expected to present to the public, particularly since part of the adopted strategy was to have those examiners strongly and publicly defend the authenticity of the documents. Finally, the reference to “a preponderance of evidence” should have raised questions regarding the strength of the support for the documents.
Earlier that very morning, Heyward had asked the right questions. Yet, when the statement was issued, he didn't follow through, only suggesting minor changes to the memo.

This alone should throw Heyward's accountability and fitness to be a news executive into serious question. However, the most damning evidence against Heyward is that he didn't do anything after the disastrous defense of the memo's authenticity on Friday's CBS Evening News. Any reasonable person would have realized that the earlier (and quite) proper questions in the directive had not been sufficiently answered.

The problem is that Heyward realized this, but did not take any sufficient action to see that the questions did get answered in any prompt fashion.

Things got worse later that night (page 178):

Friday evening, September 10, should have been a turning point. Heyward advised the Panel that he began to have doubts that night when he heard through media sources that Major General Hodges had announced that he had been misled and thought the documents were forgeries. Heyward was also concerned when he saw 60 Minutes Wednesday expert Matley address only one signature on the CBS Evening News that night. Heyward told the Panel that he realized at that point that the effort to authenticate the documents had not been as strong as he had been led to believe.
The proper response, it seems, would have been to get the answers directly from Mapes on these issues and ask the questions that West had been directed to answer.
Accordingly, this would have been the time to take an extremely hard look at the September 8 Segment. This did not occur.
And where does the responsibility for making this call? Shouldn't it be the responsibility of the news president who admittedly had doubts about the reporting already? Shouldn't he be held accountable for not doing his job?

Instead, the next morning, CBS News President Heyward preferred to talk mostly about damage control, not focus on issues like whether the documents had been properly authenticated (p 179):

On Saturday, September 11, 2004, Heyward convened a morning conference call with West, Howard, Mapes, Schwartz and Genelius. The primary purpose was to review the press coverage of the CBS Evening News broadcast the previous evening and to prepare for the public statement of Major General Hodges disavowing his alleged authentication of the Killian documents. Heyward chaired the call. [emphasis added]
Heyward convened and chaired the call. He set the agenda. As news president, he should have focused primarily on getting answers to the question he asked the morning before, after all Mapes was on the call, as was West. Instead, the primary focus was, apparently, whether the damage control had worked. Clearly, it should be termination time for Heyward. Such inapposite priorities are not desirable in a news president.
The consensus was that the September 10 CBS Evening News show had resulted in relatively good press for CBS News and that the best course was to hope that this would carry forward and the heat would die down. West recalled that Heyward again emphasized the need to learn more about CBS News’ sources.
Who convened and chaired the conference call again? One would think that the consensus should have been nailing down the story. West does note that Heyward emphasized learning more about the sources, but instead of getting answers from the participants, there is simply hope that the "heat would die down."
With regard to Major General Hodges’ anticipated public statement, there does not appear to have been any inquiry into why he felt he had been misled or why he felt the documents were forgeries. Further, there does not appear to have been any discussion about the telephone calls the previous night involving Mapes, Rather and Major General Hodges.
Again, who convened and chaired the call? Why was Heyward apparently more interested in damage control on the Hodges story than in getting to the bottom of the reporting? Again, Heyward's priorities seem to be the opposite of what you expect from the head of a news organization.
On Saturday, September 11, the CBS Evening News, Saturday Edition ran a short report about the continuing controversy over the September 8 Segment. There was some debate whether to do this Evening News report at all. Heyward favored no report but the Executive Producer for the weekend CBS Evening News persuaded him that CBS News should run a piece since CBS News had stated that it would continue to report on the story.
Heyward was concerned about running the story. Good for him. However, he shouldn't have let it run without getting the questions from his directive answered first. Those are the hard calls news presidents are supposed to make. Heyward failed here, as he did numerous other times during this news organization crisis.

After the absolutely ridiculous CBS Evening News report on Monday, September 13, featuring two new "experts," we get the following regarding Heyward:

In short, the Panel believes that the September 13 CBS Evening News report was misleading and added virtually nothing to a search for the truth as to the accuracy of the September 8 Segment. Executive Producer Jim Murphy was extremely concerned about that broadcast because he did not think it added any new information. The next day he advised Heyward that he would not air any further report on the CBS Evening News without time to vet the report. Heyward concurred with this change.

Jim Murphy also was concerned that Rather was taking the lead for CBS News in the defense of the Segment. He reported his concerns to Heyward, who made the decision starting Tuesday, September 14, that other CBS News correspondents would take the lead in any future CBS Evening News stories about the continuing controversy. For example, John Roberts reported on the continuing controversy on the September 14 CBS Evening News and Wyatt Andrews had that role on the September 15 CBS Evening News.

Why did Heyward allow the story to run without his questions being answered? Any reasonable observer would note that the questions Heyward had raised weren't being answered, indeed, they were clearly being avoided.

Furthermore, it is clear that Heyward knew that this reporting was subpar. Otherwise, why a change in CBS News' processes? Heyward also wanted to take the heat off his star anchor Dan Rather. Why would he want to do this, unless he thought the reporting was subpar?

In any case, why, instead of taking Dan Rather off the reporting beat, Heyward simply said there would be no more reporting on this issue until he got answers to the questions in his Friday morning directive? The fact that Heyward saw problems and had other correspondents take the lead only increases his responsibility for not seeing to it that the story was reported correctly.

What might have happened if the directive had been followed was demonstrated when a rival news organization spoke to two of the experts who had, supposedly, "authenticated" the documents. The story broke hard and CBS News responded just as hard:

CBS News did not rely on either Emily Will or Linda James for a final assessment of the documents regarding George Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. Ms. Will and Ms. James were among a group of experts we consulted to assess one of the four documents used in the report, and they did not render definitive judgment on that document. Ultimately, they played a peripheral role and deferred to another expert who examined all four of the documents used. Most importantly, the content of the documents was backed up by our reporting and our sources who knew the thoughts and behavior of Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian at thet time.
One would think that Heyward would have expected to get the answers to the questions in his directive by some means other than a CBS News press release. Perhaps, before that statement was issued, Heyward might have thought to convene and chair another conference call.

There will, eventually, be another conference call, but not to deal with the expert/authenticity questions, but a new witness (Knox). First, however, CBS News will take issue with her statements

As far as we can tell, this individual [Knox] is not a documents expert. We believe the documents, which were one part of the 60 Minutes story, to be genuine. It is notable that she confirms the content of the documents, which was the primary focus of our story in the first place.
Does Heyward have any responsibility for these press statements? p.166
The Panel has also sought to assess whether any fault for the aggressive defense of the September 8 Segment should rest with the Communications Group, which issued the various statements on behalf of CBS News, including the Statement issued the morning of Friday, September 10. The Communications Group serves as the public relations arm of CBS News and relies on CBS News personnel for the factual information that forms the basis for Press Statements and other information provided to the public. The Communications Group was told repeatedly by 60 Minutes Wednesday that the September 8 Segment was solid, the documents were real and the sources were reliable. Given such assurances, the Communications Group structured an aggressive defense, with every significant statement reviewed and approved by management of CBS News before it was issued. The Panel finds that the responsibility for the public statements lies with the management of CBS News, and not the Communications Group. [emphasis added]
And who would be head of management for CBS News? Who might have passed word to the Communications Group not to be so darn aggressive, when there are serious doubts about some of the reporting? Or, perhaps, Heyward isn't really management at CBS News.
Later, during the evening of September 14, however, a new strategy emerged. Heyward met with Rather and spoke with Mapes and it was decided that Knox, at least in part, might be good news since she appeared to confirm the content of the documents even if she did not believe that they were authentic. Accordingly, it was decided that 60 Minutes Wednesday would seek to bring Knox to New York for an interview, which would be broadcast on the 60 Minutes Wednesday show the next night. Knox agreed to fly up, and for the second week in a row, a segment was being “crashed.”
Crashed is the right word here. Why didn't Heyward ask Mapes about the document experts she had relied on? Why didn't Heyward ask about the questions raised by Hodges attack on the documents authenticity? It would appear that Heyward was more interested in damage control and whatever good news they could manufacturer through Knox, then in getting the questions in his directive answered, however belatedly. Again, are these the priorities a news president should have? I think not.

The next day CBS News' Communication Group, of which Andrew Heyward is supposed to be responsible for, issued another statement attacking the credibility of its own experts who, allegedly, "misrepresented their conversations and communication with CBS News." Did Heyward sign off on this memo? If so, why? If not, why not? When would Heyward demand answers to his directive from those responsible?

Finally, from the department of too little too late:

Another change in strategy occurred late on September 15, by which time the Knox piece had aired on 60 Minutes Wednesday. Heyward decided that additional attention needed to be paid to Lieutenant Colonel Burkett and the role he had played in providing the documents. To this end, he directed West to accompany Mapes to a meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Burkett. By this time, Heyward was no longer prepared to allow Mapes to direct the reporting alone and decided that West needed to be involved as well. Despite an established history of producer independence in the 60 Minutes culture, by the evening of September 15, Heyward had sufficient concerns about the September 8 Segment that established custom would need to be overridden.
Who does Heyward put in charge of Mapes? Why, the executive who had done such a good job of following his directive from the 10th, West. That's good executive decision-making, apparently.

Anyway, that's most of the argument against Heyward that is in the report itself. Here is some more evidence against Heyward that apparently did not make it into the report.

Remember that, until other news organizations revealed their identity, CBS News continued to insist that they had "several" experts who could authenticate the documents. If Heyward had followed through on his questions, CBS News would not have continued to mislead everyone.

According to the New York Times (CBS Offers New Experts to Support Guard Memos), on Sunday, September 12, Heyward had this to say:

Andrew Heyward, the CBS News president, said in an interview on Sunday that he was not concerned about the validity of the documents or the report CBS News presented. "I'm firmly convinced that the memos are authentic and the stories are accurate," he said.
According to the Panel Report (p 178), Heyward began to have doubts Friday evening. Should news presidents lie to other media? Wouldn't it have been more ethical to simply give a "no comment"?

The New York Times continues:

Addressing staff concerns, Mr. Heyward said, "The story was thoroughly vetted as all pieces of '60 Minutes' are, and the more they know about the process, the more reassured they will be that we used every appropriate journalistic standard and safeguard in reporting the story." A spokeswoman said yesterday [Sep. 13] he had not changed his position.
How would Heyward know this? The questions he had raised in his directive hadn't been answered. More evidence of his incompetence to be head of CBS News?

Heyward must have been busy avoiding getting answers to the questions in his directive, but he had enough time to be interviewed for a story published by the LA Times Wednesday, September 15 (Rather Rides Out Latest Partisan Storm):

"I think we've gone out of our way to reveal more of the process than most journalists do," Heyward said. "We're going to have to take the criticism."
How would Heyward know this? Even he did not have answers to the legitimate questions raised in his directive.

Yes, Heyward, following criticism of the CBS News story, "issued direct instructions to investigate the sourcing of the story and the authentication of the documents and pressed for his staff to come up with new and substantive information rather than merely standing by the story in a 'stubborn repetition of what we’ve already said.'" However, he did nothing to see that those instructions were followed out. He also seemed to prioritize damage control as opposed to good, solid reporting.

If he has any respect for his profession, CBS News President Andrew Heyward should resign in shame.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


1. Marvin on January 11, 2005 02:21 AM writes...

You're right, Heyward should be history. But CBS News and the other dinosaurs still haven't figured out what hit them. By the time they do, Heyward will be the low man of all the people to fall.

The Rathergate memos were not even that potent, although clearly Mapes and Rather thought otherwise. They destroyed CBS News' credibility over nothing because they thought they had to the power to bring down the president. Such hubris, such idiocy.

The only important thing to CBS News was swinging the election. Otherwise they would have given a lot of airtime to the Veterans for Truth, who had a lot more reliable information reflecting badly on John Kerry's wartime record.

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2. Seth Finkelstein on January 11, 2005 02:53 AM writes...

... he seems to have been primarily interested in damage control ...

I think that's the answer to your question right there :-(.

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3. Rod Stanton on January 11, 2005 04:02 AM writes...

Both Heyward and Rather did/are doing what Viacom wants. This is why they were not fired. Check into the background/history of the Viacom Chm CEO

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4. Eric Rasmusen on January 11, 2005 06:42 PM writes...

A question I'd like to see discussion of is why CBS chose exactly the 4 people to fire that it did, no more, no fewer. This post asks "Why not Heyward?", and its implication is that if CBS cared about good management, it would have fired Heyward. Sounds right. But if it *doesn't* care, then why fire the other 4? Firing Mapes showed that CBS was really responding. What about the other three?

I wonder if part of it might be that at least two of those three had recently been promoted. But then wouldn't the people who got them promoted defend them?

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5. Sisyphus on January 12, 2005 10:43 PM writes...

Eric Rasmusen,

I had the same question. I took the organizational chart from the report and marked up who was asked to resign/was fired (here). Andrew Heyward would be directly above Betsy West, right?

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6. sciguyfella on January 13, 2005 03:13 AM writes...

I agree with the posted comments on Dan Rather and CBS News and their September foray into politics, during which they attempted to act as an arm of the Kerry campaign.

I just have a mechanical observation that seems to be missing from all the other commentary I've seen on this topic. If one reads the CBS Independent Review Panel report, one gets the impression that these seasoned, experienced reporters did not have a clue about the issues surrounding document authentication. When faced with assessing the authenticity of questionable documents received from a questionable source, they were not even sure who to call to have the documents examined.

Don't reporters get handed documents of questionable authenticity ALL THE TIME? Isn't this part and parcel of their business? Shouldn't this topic be covered in Reporting 101? Shouldn't the "CBS News Standards" manual, along with the Standards Manual of every other news organization, contain a section that at least lists the major issues surrounding document authentication? Shouldn't any news organization maintain a list of telephone numbers of trusted, reputable document examiners?

I'm not saying that news reporters should present only (original) documents verified authentic with 100% certainty. I am saying that they should understand that a document's authenticity is usually on a gray scale, and they should make their readers and listeners aware of the degree of certainty or uncertainty surrounding a document's authenticity. They should use this gray scale assessment in deciding how much to weigh a document in supporting the conclusions of their reporting.

As for the documents in question, they were a joke. Even my 13-year-old son, well acquainted with Microsoft Word, spotted them as phonies.

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7. Rod Stanton on January 20, 2005 12:12 PM writes...

It now seems that no one has been fired. Not only was the report a lie; but the press release of it was also a lie.

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8. jo macdougal on January 22, 2005 10:37 PM writes...

It seems the rathergate report is as bogus as rathergate. No one was fired; they lied again.

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