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MousePlanet Mailbag for September 21, 2004

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.

Feedback for David Koenig

David received a mountain of e-mail regarding his article, “Black Eye,” about how the current CBS News controversy brought to mind for David his own experience with 60 Minutes.

Alan wrote:

I strongly believe that the “Memogate” problem is systematic of the way 60 Minutes does business. Unfortunately, the days of Walter Cronkite are long gone at CBS.

I used to be friendly with a gentleman who published an automotive safety newsletter. In the lates '80s, he was contacted by the 60 Minutes crew (not sure who) about a problem that existed on GM automobiles. My friend described the problem to them, they said thank you, and were about to hang up when he asked them if they would like to know how GM was addressing the problem. They said, “NO!"

When the story came out, there was absolutely nothing about the corrective action that GM already was taking.

Did you ever feel that the many news reports on investigative type shows were storyboarded with only the information that fits the storyboard included?

Storyboarding is a perfect analogy for how I felt the prospective Disneyland story was being researched. (Wish I'd thought of that!) The reporter was even telling me how she envisioned my “narration” would be used in the story before our interview ever began.


Adam wrote:

Sorry, but your latest writeup on MousePlanet was barely a story. We get it… you think CBS should own up to the Bush memo story. Yawn. I don't come to MousePlanet for political stories, and yours was just that.

Thanks for your note. But, no, you don't get it. I wondered aloud to the MousePlanet editor how many people—blinded by their own like or dislike for President Bush—would mistake a non-political, media story with a Disneyland connection for a “political story.”

Congratulations! You're the first.


Steve wrote:

From your less-than-favorable article about the CBS report concerning our National Guard no-show president, is one to assume that you obtain your fair and balanced political opinions from the likes of Fox News?

P.S. By the way, I am a fan of your Mouse Tales book!

I form my opinions based on what I can best discern, from a variety of sources, is the truth. My opinions are hopefully fair, always reasoned and rarely balanced (hey, they're my opinions!). I believe in objective truth, whether I like it or not. If a reporter runs an unsubstantiated article saying Hitler strangled puppies, I'm not going to believe it just because I dislike Hitler. As for the 60 Minutes show, I have absolutely no idea how legitimate the claims about Bush are; all I know is CBS based its claims and blind defense on some badly faked memos.

That's why I wanted my article to be about dishonest reporting and its connection to Disneyland and had tried to leave politics out of it.


Kevin wrote:

Although I enjoy your site, I would appreciate it if you would keep politics out of it. Bad reporting is done on all sides of the political divide and the right wing is even more guilty than the left of lies. When I read about Disney on a Disney web site I do it partly to escape from the travesty of an election campaign we are being put through.


Darryl wrote:

Bravo for this piece! Even though I have read your books and followed your articles, “Black Eye” has given me even greater confidence in your reporting and your integrity as a person.


Jeff wrote:

Your piece in today's edition of MousePlanet is out of place for that Web site. Obviously you took advantage to express your political views on this story, and then tried to make a very small connection to a Disney-related story. I do respect your right to your political view, but MousePlanet is the wrong place to do it. When one goes to the MousePlanet Web site they are doing so to escape the outside world. Your story has nothing to do with Disney.

We don't know the whole story of the documents in question yet (which we are now hearing that they were possibly made by a Republican trying cause trouble). But we do know that the information in these documents are “probably” correct. Funny that you don't question the Bush administration for not revealing the “missing” documents that would settle this whole mess.

My objection to your story is not our difference in opinion on the documents, but that it has no place on MousePlanet.

F.Y.I. I have forwarded this e-mail to Alex Stroup.

As I expected, a number of people have criticized the article for being political. And I asked them all, and I'll ask it to you, what was “political” about the article? Point me to a single political statement or political opinion in the article. Not surprisingly, none of them responded because if they took a closer look at the article, they'd realize there's nothing political about my article.

I can only assume they are people who view “Memogate” as something wholly about politics, and were unable to allow someone to critique it apolitically, simply as bad journalism. The documents could have been slipped to Rather by Barbara Bush in a trenchcoat for all I care.

My article was entirely about my distaste for sloppy, one-sided journalism as typified by the recent 60 Minutes episode as well as my experiences as part of a planned 60 Minutes episode on Disneyland. If you think the story has nothing to do with Disney, you didn't get past the third paragraph.

F.Y.I. I have forwarded this e-mail to my mom.


Jeff replied:

Okay, so you have a grudge towards 60 Minutes because they didn't like what you had to say. I understand that. The reason I think your article was very political is that you singled this case out and agreed with one side's opinion (one-sided journalism at its best). I did read through your entire article numerous times and I could only see the weakest connection to why it should be included in MousePlanet, which again the reason was to express your resentment with 60 Minutes. I believe that your article was not intended to be political, but it came across that way.

Here's the reason why I think that your story had a political tone to it. In the first sentence of paragraph two in the email that I sent to you, I said, “We don't know the whole story of the documents in question yet.” You stated in your story, “They insist over and over again that the memos are authentic, convinced that if they say it long enough and loud enough someone will believe them.” By saying this you are making a political statement by agreeing with the people on the other side of this controversy who are doing the exact same thing loudly insisting over and over again they are fake and have no merit. Do you see any bias there? I'm not insisting one way or another that the documents are genuine or not. We just don't know the full story yet, and it's too early to make a final conclusion.

You responded to me saying, “My article was entirely about my distaste for sloppy, one-sided journalism.” Your articles and books at times are very one-sided (I realize that you don't see it).

Knowing what I know first hand in many cases, some of the things that you have written about have no merit or are very “gray” in facts.

Thanks for replying. As of this morning, you're still the only one of about 10 “political” e-mails to respond, and I do respect that.

No, I don't have a “grudge” towards 60 Minutes. I rarely watch it and my problem with the recent program had absolutely nothing to do with what they had to say. For the purposes of my article, their initial report could have pro-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Kerry, anti-Kerry, or about anything non-political in the world. My problem was with how they compiled, presented and then defended their story. And why I singled out this case is because (1) except for the hurricanes, it's the most talked about “event” of the last two weeks and (2) it made me rethink my adventures with 60 Minutes and Disneyland over the last year.

Let's be honest. We aren't 100% sure where the memos came from. We have absolutely no idea how substantive the memos' “claims” are (for all we know, they could be 99% true or they could be 99% false). But the one thing I would think any clear-headed individual must admit is there is very little if anything that would lead anyone to believe CBS's memos were “authentic.”

No, I'm sure I sometimes cover things from “one side” and it's either

  1. unintentional,
  2. because the opposing point of view is a given, or
  3. because I only had access to one side.

If something I've written has no merit, I'd welcome hearing about it. There have been a couple of minor things in my books (like a name or a date) that people have pointed out to me and I corrected the error in subsequent editions, and more than a couple of things in online articles that were corrected through most appropriate method (letter to editor, etc.).


Bill wrote:

I am appalled that you are citing the current 60 Minutes II situation as a parallel to your own experiences with media misinformation. Keep the focus on Disney and off the politics. I'd like to be able to turn to one Web site without an agenda.


“Liar” at DisneyLies.com wrote:

I loved the MousePlanet article about 60 Minutes! It reminded me of an e-mail sent to DisneyLies.com by a producer for NBC news. She wanted contact information for a Disneyland employee mentioned on the Web site who had contracted food poisoning. Never mind that she was writing to a site dedicated to misinformation for a lead, but the person mentioned on the site who got “food poisoning” was Snow White. The joke's pretty obvious, and there's even a photo of the character on the Web page in question.

Boy, did this ruin what little respect I had left for network news!


Keith wrote:

David, I normally enjoy your increasingly infrequent articles on MousePlanet, but I was extremely disappointed by your piece on CBS. I haven't been following the news much lately (save for hurricane coverage, which as a Floridian has been at the forefront of my mind), so I didn't know anything about the CBS flap. Having read your article, I feel that I still have only one side of the story. In the process of accusing CBS of being one-sided and sensational, you've done the very same thing. CBS and Dan Rather, it would seem from you article, are the bad guys, “making up” stories.

I don't doubt that news magazines like 60 Minutes, Dateline, et al, go for “sensational” stories and scandals. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't watched these shows very often. A story about serious maintenance failures at Disneyland would certainly fit the bill. The fact that they didn't run the Disneyland piece only means that they do employ the journalistic standards that you accuse them of failing.

As to their requirement of running the material by their legal department, your implication that it's indicative of poor or even vengeful journalism is egregious and unfounded. You know as well as I how litigious Disney is. It would behoove anyone, of even the highest journalistic standards, to cover themselves against the ravenous Disney legal department.

I can't know whether the material on President Bush was flawed or if CBS didn't do due diligence, but your article, while highly inflammatory, did little to convince me. Instead it comes off as very partisan and opportunistic. Why wasn't this a “story” before it involved Presidential politics? And aside from establishing a tenuous foundation for your claims of CBS' poor journalistic practices, why the lengthy flourish? When first reading the article, I was left wondering, “What does this have to do with Disney?” It turns out, very little. The end definitely did not justify the means here, and really speaks more to partisan politics than it does to any measure of good journalism.

Hope you and yours are safe and hurricane-free.

It's funny, when I wrote this article I tried to make it completely apolitical, but responses are coming in three-to-one accusing me of being a partisan hack. To this moment, I still can't figure out what's “political” about anything in the article.

The article was supposed to be about sloppy, one-sided journalism and how Disneyland and I almost got caught up in a very similar situation by the very same people. I had no intention of trying to convince anyone of anything. I had assumed—obviously erroneously—that by now everyone had heard how CBS based a critical story on obviously forged documents and was not looking to “prove” anything. What “other side of the story” is there to basing a program on documents so obviously forged that you ignore the warnings of your own experts?

And I do salute not denigrate them for abandoning the Disneyland piece. I never said it was poor practice to consult Legal; I said it would have been unnecessary if they had tried to present a fair “expose” of supposedly faulty maintenance at Disneyland. If they had included quotes from both sides, there would be no need for the legal department to get involved.

Finally, this wasn't a story before because, frankly, I've been interviewed hundreds of times by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Hard Copy, Wall Street Journal, N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, etc., etc., and sometimes they quote me, sometimes they don't, and, yes, sometimes the story never comes to be. I've never thought that to be a story until this 60 Minutes scandal came up and I remembered the similarities to how the Disneyland story reporter was going about her work.

My hope was that everyone would ignore the politics associated with CBS's story and realize that how they compiled that story—and were going about compiling the Disneyland story—was unacceptable. Wishful thinking.


Keith responded:

Thanks for writing, David. Perhaps I'd have a different perspective on this if I had seen other coverage of the CBS affair (preferably from multiple sources). Perhaps if I had—depending on who was reporting—I might have heard that the documents were “so obviously forged that [you] ignore the warnings of [your] own experts.” Instead I read “primarily based on a collection of likely forged memos.” There's a lot more “wiggle room” in the latter comment. It clearly implies that, yes, there is indeed another side to this story—and it's a side I didn't see in your piece. Even if I were to take the former comment at face value, I'd have to question where it came from. There's always more to a story than a single writer's perspective. What I don't see in your piece or your response is any acknowledgment of that fact.

What I do see is a lot of finger-pointing and very specious use of quote-marks (“convinced that if they say it long enough and loud enough someone will believe them;” “ignoring 'partisans' who disagreed”). To me, it's unmistakable that you've already made up your mind on the issue and the story's veracity, and indeed are intent upon conveying your convictions to your readers. If somehow that's not the case, it's a failure of your piece, not of your readers.

The most repugnant political tinge to me is the comment of “ignoring 'partisans' who disagreed.” That's becoming a deafening, maddening rallying cry on both sides. “If we don't agree with you, we must be partisan;” “If your reporting is flawed, the incident must not have happened,” etc. That's bogus. It's also a slippery slope, where appearances become far more important than facts or reality. If you really wanted to appear apolitical, you've had done well to avoid such political mechanisms and focused on the story at hand.

About Disney legal, you did indeed make a strong implication, citing the reporter's “paranoia.” Out of context, the paranoia would be well-justified, whether the report had been two-sided and balanced or not. Again, we know how vicious Disney legal can be. Within the context, it clearly implies that the reporter was concerned about “getting away with something.”

I have a lot of respect for you, David, but quite frankly, this is beneath you. I would suggest that you take a long, hard honest look at your own politics may have influenced this piece.

My use of the term “likely forgeries” was being nice. I have to think that anyone over the age of 8 who has read any of the mountain of coverage of the incident has no doubt they're fakes. They're bad, obvious fakes.

And I did include Rather's response: his official response was blaming “partisans” (his word, not mine). He came on the air the next night and declared he was 100% sure his story and memos were authentic so there would be no internal investigation and blamed the brouhaha on crazed bloggers and partisans. I included this response, as laughable as it was. How he was so sure the memos were authentic was because (1) they agreed with the premise of his story and (2) they were authenticated by the experts hired by CBS. Before the weekend was up, all three experts would admit that they did not authenticate the documents and two said they warned CBS that they had serious doubts about the authenticity. Which part of “Rather's excuse” should I have included? I'm already getting hammered for not writing about Disneyland and you want me to devote more than my three paragraphs to the memos?

Finally, my intention had nothing to do with Bush or Kerry. The 60 Minutes story could have been about poisoned peanut butter, but if the memos saying the peanut butter was poisoned were proved fake, Rather only interviewed people who not only agreed with him but had ulterior motives, ignored warnings from his experts, then stood by his story, etc., I would have written the same article. Except I'd be getting hounded by the Peanut Butter Liberation Front.


Viacom Guy wrote:

I love your site. But let's stay on topic. Disney.

I am perplexed at your critique of CBS News. I am a proud and loyal employee of CBS and Viacom, and my trips to Disneyland and Disney World via MousePlanet are a nice break.

But your little tirade against the organization I work for and respect was a bit out of line.

CBS News has a proud history of journalism excellence. Let's remember that.

There are many things I love about CBS (especially the Amazing Race), but the stonewalling and backpedaling I've seen over the last week is not one of them.

If you didn't see the Disney connection in my article, please read past the third paragraph.

More than once Rather has denigrated the Internet as a source of believable news. Aren't we allowed to fight back?

Anonymous wrote:

I agree with your take on the story. Even if the memos are 100% authentic, CBS defended the story saying:

  1. It had opinions of documents experts (four were named including two who disagreed (but they didn't disagree “definitively” enough and besides they saw only one of the four documents per CBS's statements).
  2. The idea that if the photocopied signature fits, you must admit (sorry for the pun here)—an idea which their own expert attacks in his publication.
  3. Ad hominem attacks on critics.
  4. Trying to point to viewers what the “more important story is”: Barnes, an admitted Kerry campaign official, saying how some guy (now conveniently dead) did something he remembered 36 years ago and just happened to bring up now. We don't need CBS's guidance to separate the important part of the story.
  5. CBS (nor anyone else yet) did not investigate the P.O. box and zip codes to find to whom they belonged in 1972-1973.
  6. In introducing the secretary, 60 Minutes stated she is a “credible witness.” Can't the audience judge whether or not she is credible regarding incidents of 30-plus years ago?

Joy wrote:

I really enjoyed your article about CBS and Disneyland and the memos. I am not a real political person, but you really put it in perspective. Of course I am crazy about the mouse and all Disney things!


And, finally, on to something important: the 13th annual CHOC/Disneyland Resort Walk in the Park October 3. In an effort to raise money for Children's Hospital of Orange County, walkers will “have the opportunity to stroll through Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure before they officially open for the day, and will be greeted by special Disney friends along the way.” Let me allow former Disneyland cast member Laura (Dubuc) Folos to explain just how meaningful this organization is and why they deserve your support:

Hi, David!

Hope things are well in Mouse Tales land!

I was wondering if you were going to do anything for the CHOC walk? I'm not sure the rest of MousePlanet is really going to cover it, being as MouseAdventure is only a few days after the walk.

I guess I'm so adamant about this because my little 5-month-old is alive today because of CHOC. When he was born, he had a condition called Imperferated anus. The non-medical term is that he was born without his rectum connected to his anus. He was not able to poop or eliminate waste into his intestines, because they were filled with meconium. He was born on April 19, and he was rushed to CHOC on the 20th, had surgery on the 21st. He would have died if he didn't have this surgery.

He spent five days in the NICU, on antibiotics, having tests run and learning how to eat. When he was discharged, he came home, and a day and a half later, the docs from the NICU called to check on us. Our first post op visit to Dr. Kabeer (Isaac's surgeon), we ran into the geneticist who saw Isaac, Dr. Zadeh. She saw him, was thrilled with how he looked and told us the test results right then and there. She said, “It's all good news. I told you, if you didn't hear from me, it was all good!”

Isaac is now a normal, little guy. He's still got one more surgery ahead of him, but that's easy. In and out and over!

I know I've blabbered on and on, but it's an important Disney event that gets so little coverage and I knew it was there, but I never knew what kind of place that they were raising money for. Now I do. I just feel that this should be covered by someone.

I've attached two pictures of Isaac so you can see what he looked like in the NICU and what he looks like now.

Thanks, David!


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact David here.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.

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