On June 17, Lara Logan, CBS News' Chief Foreign Correspondent, had this exchange with Jon Stewart:
STEWART: Do you watch the news that we’re watching?
STEWART: …in the United States? Do you see what we’re hearing about the war? So, we might actually know everything?
LOGAN: If I were to watch the news that you hear in the United States—I’d just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts.
The following night, CBS Evening News spent the first four-and-a-half minutes of its broadcast on star golfer Tiger Woods' injury. (View full clip here.)
This is how anchor Russ Mitchell (filling in for Katie Couric) began this opening story, which accounted for, excluding commercials, nearly one quarter of the night's newscast:
RUSS MITCHELL: Just two days after one of his greatest victories, the season is over for perhaps the biggest name in sports. Tiger Woods, the world's number one golfer, said today he needs reconstructive knee surgery to a pair of torn ligaments. It is a major blow for Woods and for the sport itself.
I contacted CBS and asked them how they not only justified making this their lead story but saw fit to devote nearly a quarter of their broadcast to it.
I received the following statement from Rick Kaplan, Executive Producer of CBS Evening News, who, I was also informed, had a direct hand in making this decision:
“The Tiger Woods injury story was of major importance and we felt we needed to devote time to it as the lead. Tiger is arguably one of the world’s premiere athletes and his career is in some jeopardy with Tiger halting playing the sport for the year. It was certainly the most talked about story of the day, and the biggest story in most national newspapers. Our story contained implications for sports, millions of fans, and many aspects of business; which have by and large been revolutionized by the Tiger Woods phenomenon.”
If you want to know why such thin gruel often passes for serious news on network television, Mr. Kaplan's statement perfectly underscores the warped priorities of corporate media.
In addition to subsequent Evening News reports that night on the disastrous floodwaters in the U.S., the debate over offshore drilling and the increasing cases of salmonella poisoning from tomatoes, all of which were deemed less pressing than news Woods had cut short his golf season (a story about a $200 hamburger arguably the only piece less newsworthy), here's a shortlist of stories of the day denied any airtime on the broadcast because Tiger's injury "was of major importance":
Israeli Defense Officials Confirm Cease-Fire with Hamas to Begin Thursday
Baghdad Insists on Right to Veto US Operations
Bill Extending Jobless Benefits Is Blocked By G.O.P.
Baghdad Blast Leaves 51 Dead, And the Shiites Call for Revenge
Notes Show Confusion on Interrogation Methods
One-Third of People Shot by Taser Need Medical Attention
Chinese Quake Toll, 69,172, Is Just a Guess
Senators Deny Knowing Of Home Loan Favoritism; Senate Ethics Panel Is Investigating
More Illegal Crossings Are Criminal Cases, Group Says
Conflicts Displacing More People
UN Says 5 Million Could Go Hungry in Zimbabwe Due to Drop in Food Production, High Inflation
Man with Deadly Skin Cancer Saved by New Treatment
Sudan: Darfur Groups Urge U.N. Action
US Targets Venezuela-Based Hezbollah Helpers
Taliban Take Afghan Villages In South in Prelude to Battle
Three Men Charged for Politkovskaya Murder: Investigators
New Florida Rules Return More Than 115,000 Ex-Offenders to Voting Rolls
Pakistani Fury Over U.S. Airstrikes Imperils Training of Frontier Force
In that same interview with Jon Stewart the previous night, CBS' Logan went on to further denounce American press coverage:
"Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in American knows what that looks like? Because I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does. ... And the soldiers do feel forgotten, they do. No doubt. From Afghanistan to Iraq, they absolutely feel -- you know, we may be tired of hearing about this five years later, they still have to go out and do the same job."
The very next night, her bosses chose to lead with a four-and-a-half minute story on an injured golf star.
Yesterday, the man in charge of CBS Evening News defended that decision without pause.
[Editor's Note: A special thanks to Bill W. and Nicole Belle over at Crooks and Liars for lassoing the full video of this story through RedLasso.com. (According to CBS, the piece online was edited due to rights restrictions on sports coverage featured at the beginning of the report.) Also, a big thanks to my good friend Danny G. for tipping me off to this story.]