NEW YORK: In its response to a New York Times scoop that CBS dangled entertainment deals in front of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in exchange for an interview, the network's news division used the Jayson Blair scandal to attack the paper's credibility.
"Unlike The New York Times' own ethical problems," read the terse statement issued last week, "there is no question about the accuracy or integrity of CBS News' reporting."
The salvo marked the first public attempt by a company covered by the Times to exploit the scandal that brought down the paper's top editors. Christine Mohan, senior manager of PR at the Times, said, "We respect the importance of earning and holding the trust of our readers. But we think the CBS publicist's tactic spoke for itself."
But, as a PR tactic, the statement earned poor marks from observers. Gary Hill, chairman of the ethics committee for the Society for Professional Journalists, said, "It's a cheap tactic - an attempt to justify their questionable practices."
Matthew Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs, said such sniping is lost on the public. "The nuances of an internecine debate boil down to a degrading of journalism as a whole," he said.