I watch “60 Minutes,” most weeks on CBS. I think the majority of their stories are done very well and they are indeed providing a valuable service with their long form journalism, multiple profiles of Coldplay notwithstanding. I’ve also written here about their creative use of the non sequitur.
For the last few sessions of a class I teach at UC Davis Extension I’ve been using an example from Chevron on how not to be transparent. It’s a segment produced by Chevron starring a former CNN reporter that was created to rebut a segment on 60 Minutes called, “Amazon Crude,” which showed Chevron’s activities in Ecuador in a less than positive light.
Below is the first half of the original segment from 60 Minutes that aired on May 3, 2009.
Now, watch the rebuttal from someone hired by Chevron. The video is posted on a YouTube channel programmed by TexacoEcuador, owned by Chevron, but there is no mention that the video is produced by Chevron and it is repeatedly positioned as a news piece by showing,” Gene Randall, Reporting,” on the screen.
In June, 2009, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote an article extremely critical of Gene Randall’s “reporting,” saying that it “might be unprecedented for how it blurred the line between public relations and journalism.”
This week the Columbia Journalism Review again looked at the entire situation at the request of Chevron and faulted CBS for their reporting, saying “Overall, while a few of Chevron’s complaints are minor or can’t be substantiated, and while 60 Minutes never directly says Chevron is responsible for the pollution, 60 Minutes gives the clear impression that Chevron trashed the place and left, while downplaying the fact that Petroecuador has been operating alone at the former Texaco sites since 1990.”
I recommend you read the complete articles from the Columbia Journalism Review linked above. The bottom line is that you can’t always trust what you see, whether it’s from a news organization or from a company or from a “reporter,” who posted a segment to YouTube.