The buzz currently ripping through the blogosphere is over the authenticity of the documents used by CBS' 60 Minutes to question George Bush's National Guard service. The principal charge is that the documents, which date from the 1970s, are in New Times Roman using the default kerning and spacing of Microsoft Word. The problem is that Microsoft Word would not have existed at the time the disputed documents would have been prepared. Roger Simon, Little Greenfootballs, Hugh Hewitt and the FreeRepublic have been all over this story. Indeed, they may have been responsible for it. Crucially, ABC News (the mainstream media) has published a story questioning the veracity of the 60 Minutes documents. However, they do not base their doubts on the physical characteristics of the disputed documents.
DALLAS Sept. 9, 2004 — The authenticity of newly unearthed memos stating that George W. Bush failed to meet standards of the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War was questioned Thursday by the son of the late officer who reportedly wrote the memos. "I am upset because I think it is a mixture of truth and fiction here," said Gary Killian, son of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.
News reports have said the memos, first obtained by CBS's "60 Minutes II," were found in Jerry Killian's personal records. Gary Killian said his father wasn't in the habit of bringing his work home with him, and that the documents didn't come from the family.
CBS stood by its reporting. "As a standard practice at CBS, each of the documents broadcast on "60 Minutes" was thoroughly investigated by independent experts and we are convinced of their authenticity," CBS News said in a statement.
The velocity with which the doubts of a few bloggers have turned into a breaking story (ABC News) provides the drama. But far more dangerous to CBS are the forensics experts, such as those being interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, who are raising technical questions about the journalistic facts outside the traditional media's gatekeeper function. Whether the CBS documents are authentic or not, it is doubtful whether they can loftily ignore these critcisms, any more than they could Swiftvets. They have to meet these technical questions head-on. May the truth win out.