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Applying the Mary Mapes Standard
Mary Mapes, out hawking a book and standing by the declared-forgeries-by-all Bush National Guard documents, has apparently been appointed the penultimate authority of what journalistic verification standards are to be. Interviewed on ABCís Good Morning America by Brian Ross, Mapes said "...I donít believe that anybody has proven that the documents werenít authentic," and "Iím perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if thereís proof I havenít seen." Mr. Ross pushed the issue, asking Mapes if the standard was for her to prove their authenticity. Mapes shot back, "I donít think thatís the standard." So, if anyone provides a document, any document, it is presumed to be valid unless someone proves that it is a forgery.
"What if we accept Mapesí statement as the standard? Itís genuine unless someone proves it to be a forgery! Can we produce some documents for Ms. Mapes, who says she wants to remain in journalism, to run with?"
I can hear the screams of outrage. In fact, CBS itself has published Vaughn Verversí excoriation of Mapes and her logic. But I say, "Wait!" What if we accept Mapesí statement as the standard? Itís genuine unless someone proves it to be a forgery! Can we produce some documents for Ms. Mapes, who says she wants to remain in journalism, to run with?
Here is a document that has not been proved to be a forgery! According to Mary Mapes, Can we start an investigation into Clinton and the Democrats based on this assumed-authentic document? How about this one? Betcha didnít know that Robert Byrd is still a secret member of the KKK! Here you go. Mary! If you want, I can "unearth" hundreds, even thousands of documents, that nobody has proved to be a forgery. According to your standard, these documents are the gospel truth, and must be relied upon to make hard news stories!
"OK, we all know that the two PDF documents linked in this article are joke writings, written to make a point. The point is the same one that Vaughn Ververs made in his Public eye blog. Good journalism means that you verify, thoroughly verify, all of your sources."
OK, we all know that the two PDF documents linked in this article are joke writings, written to make a point. The point is the same one that Vaughn Ververs made in his Public eye blog. Good journalism means that you verify, thoroughly verify, all of your sources. Otherwise, any wacko can go into a Kinkos, or sit at his or her own PC, and gin up phony documents to "prove" anything that may tickle his or her fancy. The legal definition of "actual malice" when it comes to suing a news outfit for running a false and damaging story, is that the reporter knew the story was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsehood of the story. Is it reckless disregard to do little to nothing to authenticate documents, and then, with a few weeks until a presidential election, run a story based on those documents, that turned out to be forged? What do you think?
It took the blogosphere mere hours to dissect those phony documents. Supposedly written in 1973, these documents had typographical advances that made it quire easy to duplicate the document to the pixel level using Microsoft Word. Despite the rather weak attempts to defend the document, namely that one very rare -- and expensive -- IBM typesetting Selectric typewriter could be used to create documents like the forgeries, nobody ever showed that the National Guard ever had one of these. Nobody could come up with another document from the same time frame that looked similar.
So either Mary Mapes is to be ignored or she is right, bloggers are evil, and her forged documents ought to be taken as true until and unless someone proves that they are phony, by a standard that has yet to be achieved, or for that matter defined.
Other excellent Mapesgate Links: