“60 Minutes,” the venerable CBS News magazine is the news, again this weekend. On CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” FNC’s “MediaBuzz” and in his Monday media column, the New York Times‘ David Carr calls into question CBS News correspondent John Miller’s report on the NSA last Sunday. Carr called the story “a friendly infomercial for the agency,” while FNC’s Howard Kurtz called it “rather soft.” Beyond the criticism of the story was the issue of whether Miller, a former FBI official who worked with NSA, should have been the reporter on it. Carr:
On what planet is it fine for someone like Mr. Miller, a former federal law enforcement official, to be the one to do a big segment on a major government security agency? Mr. Miller got the story because the N.S.A. said yes to his pitch — why would it not? — but other journalists at “60 Minutes” without his potential conflicts were interested as well. No matter how the deal was brokered, the optics were terrible and the N.S.A. got its hands on a megaphone with nary a critic in sight.
For his part, Miller defends the story to Carr: “We went there, we asked every question we wanted to, listened to the answers, followed up as we wished, and our audience can decide what and who they believe. As we constructed it, the N.S.A. was a story about a debate, not a villain, and we added to that debate with important information. I fail to understand how a shrill argument for the sake of creating televised drama would have accomplished anything.”
As Carr, Kurtz and Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” all pointed out, the NSA likely wouldn’t have agreed to cooperate if Miller wasn’t the reporter. In the end, “60 Minutes” gets inside access to the NSA, but at what cost to their credibility?