CBS Investigative Team’s Latest Subject: CBS’s David Letterman
Shortly after news of the Letterman scandal broke (you may recall that it was broken by intrepid reporter David Letterman), Nikki Finke theorized that CBS wouldn’t investigate Letterman’s “single man sex with staffers at his independent production company Worldwide Pants.” CBS boss Les Moonves and his boss, Sumner Redstone, had both had adulterous affairs, she argued, and so they wouldn’t be too keen on digging into Letterman.
But as the New York Observer‘s Felix Gilette reports, CBS will be looking into the sex-and-extortion saga the way they know best: with a crack investigative reporter. Armen Keteyian, who has won eight Emmys over the course of his career for a distinguished blend of sports and straight news reporting, is heading up the investigative team.
Whether the story ever makes it to the airwaves remains to be seen. But current and former CBS News staffers who spoke to The Observer said they’d be surprised if the news divisions pulls any punches. “From having talked to some friends there, who are pretty highly placed, they really want to hit this story hard, like any other journalistic story,” Dr. Bob Arnot, a former CBS news correspondent and friend of Mr. Halderman’s, recently told The Observer. “They want to be ahead of the pack because it’s in their own house.”
As a news network, CBS is in an unusual position when it comes time to investigate one of its own. Whereas a typical corporation might respond by launching an internal investigation, complete with outside auditors and a standardized procedure, CBS has a stable of its own auditors working in the newsroom. As such, the process by which they will handle this is murky: “Whether the story ever makes it to the airwaves remains to be seen.” Could a producer, in theory, axe Keteyian’s piece not because of the awkward internal element, but because she thought it was bad journalism? If that happened, would anyone believe that was the real reason?
The very news that this is happening represents a firm commitment by CBS. CBS Evening News executive EP Rick Kaplan went on the record saying that they would cover the story “as aggressively as we cover any story of this kind, trying to learn what we can and get the critical interviews.” If this was all behind-the-scenes, it would, a conspiracy theorist might say, be easier to kill if it wasn’t to someone’s liking. But if the exposé doesn’t air now, it would unleash a wave of horrible PR for the network. CBS’s integrity in following through with this and so boldly stating its intentions should be lauded — and could just lead to the scoop of the year.
(image via ABC News)
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