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Behind 60 Minutes’ decision to air video of sarin gas victims in Syria

Sunday evening, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired what it said was some of the most disturbing and graphic video it has ever put on television. The network began warning viewers about the video Friday. The story Sunday night warned viewers that “If you have young children watching right now, that is usually a good thing. But this story is not for them. The pictures you are about to see are agonizing.”

CBS posts a warning online as the program begins.

CBS posts a warning online as the program begins.

The report by anchorman Scott Pelley called “A Crime Against Humanity” focused on the 2013 sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 Syrian civilians — 426 children died in the attack just outside of Damascus.  Sunday evening, 60 Minutes aired more than three minutes of video captured by cell phones of adults and children suffering seizures, vomiting and gasping for air. Read more

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CBS’s Bob Simon Killed in Car Crash

Bio-Photo-Simon-60-xlargeOne of CBS News’ most honored journalists, Bob Simon, died in a car accident in New York City Wednesday night. Simon was 73.

Simon’s career spanned five decades from covering the Vietnam War to filing a story last Sunday for 60 Minutes about the movie “Selma.” He is the recipient of what is believed to be an unequaled 27 Emmy Awards for field reporting.

CBS said:

Simon recently reported on the persecution of Coptic Christians caught up in Egypt’s political turmoil and the situation in Fukushima, Japan, three years after it endured the triple tragedy of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. His 2012 story from Central Africa on the world’s only all-black symphony won him his fourth Peabody award and an Emmy. Another story about an orchestra in Paraguay, one whose poor members constructed their instruments from trash, won him his 27th Emmy.

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Career Beat: Dan Lyons named editor-in-chief at Valleywag

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Dan Lyons is now editor-in-chief at Valleywag. Previously, he was a marketing fellow at HubSpot. (Re/code)
  • Rachel Racusen will be vice president of communications at MSNBC. Previously, she was associate communications director for the White House. (Playbook)
  • Jeff Fager will be an executive producer at “60 Minutes”. Previously, he was chairman of CBS News. (Politico)
  • Nitasha Tiku is now a west coast senior writer at The Verge. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Valleywag. (Business Insider)
  • Jason Kravarik is now a producer at CNN. Previously, he was assistant news director at KOIN in Portland, Oregon. (TV Spy)

Job of the day: The Rockford (Illinois) Register Star is looking for an editor. Read more

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’60 Minutes’ apologizes for overdubbing sound in Tesla story

Associated Press | Jalopnik

CBS News said an engineer made an “audio error” by “dubbing the sound of a loud traditional car engine over footage of the much quieter Tesla electric car in a story that aired Sunday,” AP reports.

Spokesman Kevin Tedesco said Tuesday that the loud car audio has been edited out of the online version of the story on Tesla founder Elon Musk. Anchor Scott Pelley reported the story, and CBS said he wasn’t aware of the added audio ahead of time.

Robert Sorokanich wrote in Jalopnik that the story “definitely includes motor noises that definitely don’t come from a Tesla.”

Here’s the CBS story:

In December “60 Minutes” drew some criticism for a soft-focus report on the NSA by John Miller. In November it said it had placed correspondent Lara Logan on leave following a botched report on Benghazi. Read more

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CBS News: Bill Whitaker’s new job ‘has nothing to do’ with Lara Logan

News & Record | Politico

We got to wondering when correspondent Lara Logan would be back at “60 Minutes” when we read an item in the (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record reporting that Lesley Stahl would replace Logan at Guilford College’s Bryan Series lecture on April 8.

Logan was suspended in November along with producer Max McClellan after an internal report called her Oct. 27 story on Benghazi “deficient in several respects.”

Politico’s Dylan Byers reported in December that Logan and McClellan were set to be back on the program “early next year,” although CBS had not scheduled a return date.

News that Bill Whitaker will be joining “60 Minutes” also fueled speculation on our part that he could be Logan’s replacement.

Kevin Tedesco, CBS News/60 Minutes communications executive director, cut that short in an email to Poynter:

Lara is still on a leave of absence and Bill Whitaker’s appointment has nothing to do with her.

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’60 Minutes’ reporter didn’t want NSA story to be ‘a puff piece’

“60 Minutes”

In an interview with “60 Minutes Overtime” producer Ann Silvio, John Miller talks about his intentions with “60 Minutes”‘ two-part NSA story, which ran Sunday. Miller said the disclosure that he used to work in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was important, but “You also don’t want this to be a puff piece.”

I think we asked the hardest questions we could ask. And part of this is not to go there and show you can beat up a public official in an interview. I have been beat up as a public official in interviews, and I have beaten up public officials in interviews. Our job this time was to take the hardest questions we could find and ask them, ‘What’s the answer to it,’ and then spend a couple of minutes listening.

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Time: ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi apology nearly as good as Rob Ford’s

Time

CBS News’ retraction of “60 Minutes”‘ big Benghazi story is No. 4 on Time’s list of the year’s best apologies: “Logan issued two on-air apologies on CBS This Morning Nov. 8 and on 60 Minutes Nov. 10, though media watchdogs said the mea culpa should have explained how the program failed to see all sides of the story.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s apology for smoking crack came in a little higher.

Time’s year end Top 10 Everything in 2013 package also takes a few more looks at journalism:

TOP 10 OVERREPORTED STORIES – NO. 4, Wendy Davis’s shoes:

Never mind that for 11 hours Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a controversial bill that she and other critics insisted would close all but five of the state’s abortion clinics.

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Correspondent Lara Logan of "60 Minutes" is on a leave of absence following an internal review by CBS News of her story on the Benghazi embassy attack. (AP Photo/Robert Spencer)

CBS memos suggest Logan had bias, but don’t say why no one addressed it

The CBS memos from Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News, and Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices, suggest that correspondent Lara Logan had a preconceived bias that prevented her from fully vetting her source before airing his story about the attack on the Benghazi embassy compound that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

But the leaked memos don’t explain why Logan’s superiors allowed her to pursue the story in the first place and why others at CBS didn’t compensate for her potential blind spots.

CBS announced the unspecified leave of absence for Logan and her producer Max McClellan. The Huffington Post ran memos from both Fager and Ortiz. Ortiz offered a summary of CBS’ findings that included these points:

  • It was possible to know that Dylan Davies’ account to the FBI was inconsistent with what he told CBS.
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Correspondent Lara Logan from "60 Minutes" agreed to take a leave of absence after an internal CBS News review found her story on Benghazi was "deficient." (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

CBS News review: Benghazi story was ‘deficient in several respects’

The Huffington Post

“60 Minutes” reporter Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan will “take a leave of absence,” CBS News chairman Jeff Fager tells staffers in a memo obtained by The Huffington Post. “60 Minutes” failed to “take full advantage of the reporting abilities of CBS News that might have prevented” its botched Benghazi report from happening, Fager writes.

CBS News later confirmed the HuffPost report in its own story posted Tuesday.

HuffPost also has a summary of Al Ortiz’ review of the segment, which Ortiz says “was deficient in several respects.” “60 Minutes” source Dylan Davies’ admission to CBS “that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions – should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process,” Ortiz writes. Read more

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Restoring trust after big mistakes like CBS’ Benghazi whopper

When a newsroom makes a big mistake, it’s a sign that something in its newsgathering process went awry. With trust between journalists and the audience they serve so fragile, it’s crucial that newsrooms take significant and swift action after major mistakes.

In this chat, we’ll talk about what CBS could do after significant doubts emerged about the veracity of a source used in its 60 Minutes’ story on the U.S. compound attack in Benghazi.

Keep reading to explore how corrections and clarifications can be among the best tools (in addition to accuracy) for establishing and maintaining audience trust.

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