The "Schieffer Standard"
Lethargy over John Edwards Scandal Returns to MSM
In the John Edwards Scandal, CBS News' Bob Schieffer serves as the poster child for the ADHD Mainstream Media.
After a spike in coverage--largely composed of stories about why the MSM didn't allow their customers news of the John Edwards affair, scandal and cover-up before John Edwards gave the Dinosaur Press his okay--the MSM has 'moved on' to more pleasant topics, leaving the scandal's reporting and investigation to the National Enquirer and the blogosphere.
Bob Schieffer, of CBS, might well one day become a case study in Journalism 101's "Death of the Dinosaurs" chapter. From the beginning, Schieffer has racked his brain for excuses for not bothering his remaining viewers with news of a presidential and vice-presidential contender's affair and cover-up in an election year. The fact that Schieffer "knows" John and Elizabeth Edwards, or that Edwards has the protective "D" after his name probably never blurred Schieffer's news "judgment".
In December, when the National Enquirer published pictures of pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, and the news that she'd moved to within five miles of the Edwards 08 for President campaign HQ in Chapel Hill, NC, Bob Schieffer wasn't interested in the story.
[Background information: access over 100 DBKP stories on the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair, scandal and cover-up: John Edwards Love Child Scandal Library.]
The Enquirer also published details of the Edwards' cover-up and the fact that Hunter was driving around in a BMW owned by Edwards' operative, Andrew Young. But none of that interested hard-bitten newsman, Bob Schieffer.
Here's what Schieffer had to say in December about why he wouldn't be reporting the John Edwards' affair:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you know I saw that this morning. I believe that — I believe that's a story that we will be avoiding, because it appears to me that there's absolutely nothing to it. I'm told that another — a man says that the child is his. I'm told that the woman who seems to be pregnant says it's not his. So I guess — I guess we're going to pass on that. Unless you come up with some new information on this, Don.
–When asked about the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter story On the Don Imus show
What sort of "new information" might have changed the news equation for Bob Schieffer?
How about John Edwards getting cornered by Enquirer reporters on July 21 in the Beverly Hilton after visiting Hunter?
How about Edwards ducking reporters on July 30 who tried to question him about the Beverly Hilton events, after an Edwards' speech in Washington, DC?
Apparently, it took John Edwards appearing on rival ABC's Nightline to confess to the affair--but not to the cover-up or the paternity of Hunter's daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter--to get the attention of Bob Schieffer.
Not sure if Bob Schieffer would have reported on it even then.
It took a personal phone call to Schieffer from John Edwards himself to convince steely-eyed journalist Bob Schieffer to comment on the matter at all. On August 8, Schieffer got the the go-ahead to talk about the Edwards-Hunter affair. Readers can decide for themselves if Schieffer sounds like a objective newsman or an Edwards' PR hack trying to soothe CBS' dwindling audience.
SCHIEFFER: Russ, just before we went on the air tonight, John Edwards called me and said he wanted to talk. He said that all this happened back in 2006 before he announced that he was running for president and that he told his wife Elizabeth about it then and that she forgave him. He said because of that he thought it was just between them. I've known John Edwards a long time and I asked him if I could talk to Elizabeth and she came to the phone. She was obviously in tears and didn't say much but she told me that he had told her about then and they had decided to move on.
MITCHELL: Why did he decide to tell it now?
SCHIEFFER: He said he said he just couldn't live with the constant pounding from the tabloids. It wasn't going to stop, I was being dogged and dogged, for the sake of my family I just had to end it, for the sake of my family. So he decided to confirm it and go on, he said, for the sake of his family. He said repeatedly that he took full responsibility for this. He told me he was certain the child was not his, that the affair was over long ago. When I asked him how Elizabeth was doing he said she is just amazing, like she always is.
Edwards' previous denials to the press in October 2007--which Schieffer now knew to be lies was barely remarked upon.
SCHIEFFER: When I asked him why he had denied the story over and over he said because so many of the stories had so much false information. He said what I should have done is confirm the part that was true and then live with it.
That explanation reveals why the story of the Edwards' coverup--in Bob Schiffer's mind--is a settle matter.
So, nineteen days after that phone call, how does Bob Schieffer feel about reporting on the man who lied to the press and the nation while running for president, vice-president and away from reporters?
Howard Kurtz reports Bob's current take, as told to those in Denver:
CBS's Bob Schieffer defended the media's reluctance to cover John Edwards's extramarital affair, saying Edwards's candidacy was over and "I don't see that we have time to be fooling with this."
Bob Schieffer is leaving the investigative work to others, while he tackles weightier issues, like Paris Hilton.
Two days after Edwards called him on August 8, Schieffer was "standing up for old, white-haired dudes":
For example, if forced, we can drink coffee straight from a mug. We don't need to sip it through a little hole in a plastic top in a cardboard container to make it taste good.
Bob also allowed in that piece that "our memory sometimes fails us".
Apparently, one blogger thought Bob's memory failed him a couple days before the December 18 revelations in the Enquirer. "Face it! Bob Schieffer is an Idiot." critiques Schieffer's interview on December 16 with--surprise!--John Edwards.
Bob Schieffer blows my mind. He’s the CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, yet he still doesn’t seem to have a clue about the basics of United States government. Bob… the U.S. has three branches of government, not four. Big corporations are not a branch of the U.S. government. I know it’s confusing, but no matter how many politicians they buy or lobbyists they have writing laws, they are not a branch of government. We don’t have to sit down to the table and negotiate with corporations. The actual government’s job is to make laws to protect citizens and regulate corporations.
On this December 16, 2007 broadcast, he asked John Edwards why he was taking such an aggressive stance against corporate interests instead of sitting down with them to negotiate.
Bob continues to leave the heavy lifting in the story to the Enquirer and the blogosphere. He seems to echo all of those ex-MSM guys who've had the sense to leave Big Media and seek employment in academia.
One such Nutty Journalism Prof is DAVID HAZINSKI, ex-NBC/MSM-turned-"Mad Professor of Media" at UGA who, in December coincidently, railed against the "dangers" of citizen journalists and offered remedies; one of which was:
"Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity."
--From Citizen Journalism: "911, I'd Like to Report an Unregulated Blogger"
Here's Hazinski's chance: he could create the "Schieffer Standard" of news reporting to bring citizen journalists to the same standard employed by Bob Scheiffer at CBS News!
From December 23, "The Edwards Scandal, The Press, The Enquirer and the Blogosphere":
I got Bob Schieffer's sense of curiosity here!"
A presidential candidate and his campaign's mysterious video: one that was produced with the high hopes of making the candidate better-known, only to have that hope fulfilled when it disappeared from public view.
That doesn't excite Bob Schieffer.
A presidential candidate who isn't asked by the press if he denies being in phone contact with his alleged mistress since she discovered she's pregnant. Indeed, the Mainstream press didn't go postal: they went Emily Post-al, as in, "let's not make any waves, that's not polite; might get us thrown out of the candidate's press tent."
That doesn't excite Bob Schieffer.
A presidential candidate's alleged mistress moving close to campaign headquarters, driving around in a BMW owned by the campaign's former Director of Operations, living in a house owned by the campaign's backer, having her bills and living expenses paid for–well, who is paying them?
That wouldn't likely excite Bob Schieffer, either.
What would excite cynical, seasoned, experienced CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer?
Bob Schieffer: Star Light, Star Bright…
The other question is if it all gets settled, and may well be by mid-February, what are we going to do after that? I would love it if the two parties have a special meeting (instead of conventions) and certify them as candidates. Wouldn't it be great to have them fly around the country on the same airplane and have debates?
Maybe Bob will get to fly on the plane!
Maybe Bob Schieffer will actually get to fly on the plane with John Edwards!
As we also stated in December: "But DBKP’s doesn’t mean to be picking on Bob Schieffer. We like Bob and always enjoyed watching “Face the Nation”.
Bob’s is shorthand for the attitude of the Mainstream Media."
He continues to play that role to this day.
One question, we suppose, Bob Schieffer will never get asked--and therefore, will never receive an answer--is "When would have been the best time to report on the John Edwards scandal?"
The answer might provide some insight for future journalism students into the "Schieffer Standard".
* image of Schieffer on a segway: newsday
* dbkp file