Signs and Wonders
<i>CBS Evening News</i> anchor Scott Pelley
Associated Press/Photo by John Filo/CBS
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley

Signs and Wonders: CBS’s Scott Pelley admits media missteps on big stories

Newsworthy

Mea culpa. CBS News anchor Scott Pelley received the 20th annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award on Friday, and he used the occasion to give an interesting and potentially important speech about the current state of American journalism. He said, “These have been a bad few months for journalism. We're getting the big stories wrong, over and over again.” I would argue that it’s been a bad few decades, or even a bad century, for journalism. But I quibble: I agree with Pelley that it’s been a particularly bad few months. Pelley faulted himself and his colleagues for their coverage of the Newtown tragedy. Regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, he makes a particularly poignant point: “In Boston, the FBI issued a press release begging us to confirm our information before we put it on the air. The FBI! Here's what the president said in Boston: ‘In this age of instant reporting, tweets and blogs, there's a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes jump to conclusions. But when a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk, and the stakes so high, it's important that we do this right.’ The president of the United States and the FBI were telling us what our bedrock principles should be? Aren't we supposed to be watching them?” It’s a good question. (Watch Pelley’s speech below.)

The company you keep. Have you ever flown on Southwest or Delta Airlines? Perhaps you’re in the “good hands” of Allstate Insurance. Maybe your car rides on Bridgestone Tires or you bank at Wells Fargo. If so, you might be interested to know that some of your money went to sponsor the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards. If you want to know what your money accomplished, here it is: “The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community that inspire change. The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD's work to amplify stories of LGBT people and issues that build support for equality.” The awards gala took place Saturday night in San Francisco. Among the nominees this year were Honey Boo Boo, Suze Orman, and Adam Lambert.

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Pants on fire. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had hoped to spend the Friday before Mother’s Day talking about healthcare reform. But news events overtook him and instead of going on the offensive related to Obamacare, he got defensive about Benghazi and the IRS admission it targeted conservative groups during the 2012 presidential campaign. Carney took some criticism for failing to give straight and forthcoming answers. Fast forward a day: On Saturday, White House reporters and photographers had to evacuate the press room because of smoke from an overheated transformer in a mechanical room. "Early this morning, an electrical transformer near the West Wing malfunctioned and set off a smoke alarm in the West Wing," a White House official said in a statement. "The transformer problem was quickly resolved. Electricity and personnel access to the West Wing has returned to normal," the statement said.  The fire alarm, combined with the events of the day before, motivated what I consider to be one of the best tweets of all time: “So, Jay Carney’s pants actually DID catch on fire.” The tweet came from @RennaW, who describes herself as a “Baptist” and “conservative” chemical engineer and ex-cheerleader who “mostly tweets lame jokes.” Not this time.

Hot spot. If you compiled a list of international conflicts going on in the world, you wouldn’t expect to see a conflict between Israel and Scotland on the list. Nor would you expect that an internal church document would be the source of the conflict. But that’s precisely what’s happening following the release of a Church of Scotland document. The 10-page report says that "promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory" and the Bible should not be used to settle conflicts over land. Israel’s ambassador to Great Britain called the document "truly hurtful." According to The Huffington Post, “The report was produced by the Church's Church and Society Council and will be debated at this month's meeting of the General Assembly, the body which makes laws determining how the Church of Scotland operates.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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