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CBS investigation welcome

September 24, 2004

Though The Herald-Mail newspapers have no connection with CBS News, we nevertheless welcome the network's appointment of two outside experts to probe its handling of a story about President Bush's National Guard Service - a story that turned out to be based on bogus documents.

The two are Dick Thornburgh, the former Pennsylvania governor who served as attorney general under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Louis D. Boccardi, retired CEO of the Associated Press.

Both Thornburgh and Boccardi have investigative experience, the latter as a member of the group that looked at how former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair fabricated stories at that newspaper.

It's important to hold the national news organizations to a higher standard because when they report something, just that fact makes it news. The wire services and smaller news organizations assume that the stories broadcast by network news organizations have been checked and double-checked.

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It's that process that should prevent the network - or any news organization, for that matter - from being taken in by someone with an agenda that doesn't involve objective coverage of the news.

It should also protect against reporters and producers who get so enthusiastic about a story that they fail to see that there are gaps that should make them suspicious - or at least lead them to do more research.

We share CBS News President Andrew Heyward's hope that this probe will be done in weeks rather than over a period of months.

If, as some have alleged, there's been an effort by someone in a national campaign organization to get false information onto a national news broadcast, that should be revealed before the election. Thanks to Thornburgh and Boccardi for taking on this important job.

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