A Sidelined Sharyl Attkisson Leaves CBS News – UPDATED

A Sidelined Sharyl Attkisson Leaves CBS News – UPDATED March 10, 2014

It’s not really a surprise. Back when CBS News confirmed that the reporter’s computer had been hacked, one sensed a tension when reading between the lines. Sharyl Attkisson had this habit of putting aside dictation in order to do actual investigative reporting — a tendency that got her labeled (this is rich) “biased.”

Now, after over twenty years at what used to be the most respected network news division in mainstream media, Attkisson is gone:

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has reached an agreement to resign from CBS News ahead of contract, bringing an end to months of hard-fought negotiations, sources familiar with her departure told POLITICO on Monday.

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.

Feeling increasingly stymied and marginalized at the network, Attkisson began talking to CBS News President David Rhodes as early as last April about getting out of her contract. Those negotiations intensified in recent weeks, and her request was finally honored on Monday.

This is not a bad piece, at Politico; one gets a sense of those tensions I had mentioned:

Attkisson had become a polarizing figure at the network, sources there said. While some championed her relentless dedication to investigations — ranging from defective Firestone tires to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal — others saw evidence of a political agenda, particularly against President Barack Obama. (The bulk of Attkisson’s work since 2009 has focused on the failures or perceived failures of the Obama administration, including its failed green-energy investments and the attack in Benghazi, though she has reported on several Republican failures as well.)

Others have suggested that CBS News itself was politically biased: “It’s no secret that Sharyl has been unhappy about CBS’s lack of interest in investigative reporting, especially when it comes to stories about the Obama administration,” a source close to Attkisson said.

It’s surprising that nowhere in this piece is the hacking of Attkisson’s computer mentioned, although the Washington Post mentions it:

Attkisson herself didn’t help matters when she said on a Philadelphia radio show last May that her computers had been hacked, and she even went so far as to suggest that the intrusions could have had something to do with her work investigating the government. CBS News later confirmed breaches of her computer, though it never disclosed who had been responsible for them.

Not sure why it would be a strange thing for an investigative journalist to suspect that a hacking might have been connected to her work — or why it would be a bad thing if “the bulk of her work” was looking into White House situations (Woodward and Bernstein were praised for that) — but the WaPo piece does do a good job of depicting how CBS News appears to have been sidelining her for much of the past year.

Neither piece goes into the fact that David Rhodes brother, Ben, is Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication for the Obama administration. David Rhodes, recall, had earlier suggested that Attkisson’s questions regarding the terror attack at Benghazi were “wading dangerously close to advocacy.”

She’s likely better off out of CBS News and the hotbox
in which reporters currently find themselves in, if they ask serious questions. The White House hasn’t much appreciation for investigative reporters; it has been described by some journalists as the most secretive and most “hostile to the media”, in memory. This administration has threatened at least one reporter with espionage charges and is taking another to court in order to learn his sources.

All of which is interesting, considering the inter-marrying between the press — which used to have the public trust — and the “public servants”, most of whom are no longer trusted by anyone with sense. (Patheos’ own Rebecca Hamilton, (D-OK) is a notable, very service-minded exception).

Maybe Attkisson should have married someone in politics. If you’re keeping score, the President of CBS News has a brother who works in the White House.

  • The President of ABC News, Ben Sherwood, has a sister, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, who is Special Assistant to the President of the United States.
  • ABC News’ senior national correspondent, Claire Shipman is married to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
  • NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a member of the White House counsel’s staff.
  • Vice-President Biden’s communications director is married to a Wall Street Journal political correspondent.
  • CNN deputy bureau chief, Virginia Moseley is married to Tom Nides, who works for Hillary Clinton. If she runs for president, her retinue will likely consist of a former Clinton State Department Spokesman, James Rubin*, who is married to reporter Christiane Amanpour, and of course good old George Stephanopoulos is keeping busy at ABC News.

Really, it’s sort of pointless to even think about news and truth and politics, anymore. I’m seriously just about done with it and right now, I’m going back to Lent. Religion has all of the surprise and excitement that poli-news used to possess, and is more interesting and rewarding, to boot.

(*James Rubin, not James Rosin. My dyslexia…)

UPDATE: I forgot to close comments after publishing this, and a few comments got through. Comments are now closed. Please note that my comboxes are meant to be closed for Lent and — if you see a stray one open — rather than indulging, let me know that I’ve forgotten! Thanks. – ES

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