Yesterday, after one week of silence and stonewalling, Lesley Stahl’s name disappeared from the list of Advisors to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. But, this story is not quite over. CBS continues to stonewall over the circumstances of Stahl’s service on the Peterson Foundation Advisors’ board — which was a blatant violation of basic ethical journalistic standards and CBS’ own ethical guidelines. Let us refer to this as Stahlgate — and as usual it’s the cover-up that is the worst part of this saga.
I want to give credit to the various people who wrote or called CBS demanding that Stahl step down from the Foundation — it is that activism that forced Stahl from the position she unethically held.
But, there are still unanswered questions — questions I asked CBS a week ago, which were never answered, either to me, to anyone else to my knowledge, or certainly not in any public statement. I’ve resubmitted the questions in an updated and slightly expanded fashion — see below.
Just a few points to make.
No,this is not the most important issue on the planet — certainly not, for example, compared to the death toll in the Bangladesh factory collapse which is now over 1,000 human beings.
But, it has some relevance to the world we do live in. CBS’ arrogant stonewalling about the incident — its covering up of an ethical violation by a visible and senior individual –speaks volumes about the corruption of the network itself. It’s a symptom of the distrust people feel towards the traditional media — that media organs like CBS demand ethical behavior and transparency from public officials but refuse to adhere to ethical standards itself and practice transparency.
And it’s a sign, as I originally wrote, of the closeness of the political, economic and media elites in the country, who, on a daily basis, mix with each other and adopt each others’ world views, echoing those views back and forth so that they turn into policy reality — from the Iraq War to the phony debt and deficit crisis.
May 9th 2013To: John Frazee Senior Vice President, CBS News ServicesIngrid Ciprian-Matthews, Vice President, CBS NewsFrank Governale, Vice President, CBS News OperationsRe: Transparency regarding Lesley Stahl’s Service on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Advisory BoardOn May 2nd, I wrote to you regarding the service of “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl on the advisory board of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. As I outlined in a report on Working Life the same day, Stahl was serving on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in direct violation of CBS’ ethical guidelines, not to mention most accepted journalistic ethical standards.Yesterday, Stahl’s name disappeared from the list of the Peterson Foundation board of advisors. That is a testament to the activism of a number of people who I believe called CBS to ask about the unethical service. But, it certainly is no credit to CBS, which has stonewalled and refused to publicly acknowledge the gross violation of CBS’ own ethical standards. Stahlgate now joins the annals of other cover-ups in which the actual violation is far less serious than the attempt to keep the whole episode from public view.And it is a stain on CBS — a news organization that demands, via its “journalism”, ethical behavior and transparency from public officials but will not adhere to the same standards.I would request again answers to several questions, some of which were asked a week ago:1. Did Ms. Stahl’s service adhere to the ethical guidelines set forth by CBS?2. If her service violated the guidelines, did CBS management direct Ms. Stahl to resign her position on the advisory board?3. Has any sanction been imposed on Ms. Stahl?4. Was Ms. Stahl paid for her service on the board in any fashion, either in the form of fees and/or reimbursement for travel? If the answer is yes, were those payments disclosed to CBS?5. Was anyone aware, at the management level of CBS news, about Ms. Stahl’s service?6. Did Ms. Stahl explicitly request permission to serve on the advisory board? If the answer is yes, can you provide documentation for such a request?7. If such a request was not made, is that failure grounds for any discipline on the part of CBS management if, in fact, such service is permitted with prior approval?Any answers you provide will be posted publicly on Working Life and made available to others.I intend sharing these questions with media reporters and/or media critics to encourage them to ask similar questions.Sincerely,Jonathan TasiniPublisher-EditorWorking LifeTwitter: @jonathantasini