Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
As the video camera rolls behind him, hard-boiled “60 Minutes” reporter Mike Wallace knocks on an office door.
It’s a stock shot for the investigative news program: The intrepid reporter confronts a reluctant and beleaguered wrongdoer.
Sure enough, the door opens just a crack and a face peers out.
Wallace shoves a microphone into the gap.
“Can you explain your part in the current controversy?” Wallace demands aggressively.
“That’s not funny, Mike,” snaps Dan Rather, slamming the door.
Once more we find ourselves in possession of a secret memorandum from the upper echelon’s of CBS. It is dated Sept. 20, 2004 and is titled, “Apologies.” It follows in full:
- If caught in a serious error, especially one occasioned by your own, questionable motives, always say you “regret,” not that you are “apologizing” or “sorry.” The first implies that you are feeling pain; the latter two may be taken to connote penitence or contrition.
- Always express regret about your “judgment” rather than your intent. Imply your error was the result of your zeal to “get the story,” rather than your zeal to advance your philosophical or political agenda. People will forgive the former, but not the latter.
- If your error damaged or was designed to damage somebody – say, a political candidates – always pretend that your viewers rather than your target are the aggrieved parties. Never apologize to your real victims.
- Make some sort of human sacrifice. (Firing a producer should be sufficient.)
A number of things about the memo concerned us. For one thing, it just showed up in the mail, with a note claiming it was found in a trash can at the network’s New York headquarters.
Our experts have warned us that it appears to have been typed on a 1948 Underwood instead of prepared on a modern computer using Microsoft Word. Sure, the letters are pressed into the paper and the periods are punched right through, but there is a chance somebody actually did use a word processor, then went over it with a stylus or similar instrument to make it appear as if it were typed.
As the memo confirms all our prejudices, we believe that even if it is a forgery, it’s true in substance, and that is not altered by the fact the accompanying note was signed “CBS Hater.”
Perhaps of most concern was the fact the memo was signed by William S. Paley, the man who built the CBS broadcast empire. What was troubling about this was Paley died in 1990. However, we consulted Madame Zola, a reputable psychic and palm reader, who said the vibrations from the document were from the late executive. She has assured us her membership on the County Republican Committee had no bearing on her analysis.
Finally, we asked God to give us a sign if the memo was a forgery. No sign was forthcoming, further evidence of the document’s authenticity.
Our bright readers
Shoshona Bieman of California notes that last week’s rant about the “Lou Grant” program didn’t point out that the show, like “60 Minutes,” was a CBS product. “Coincidence?” she asks. “Irony? I just know Howard Bashford would never make the connection.” Ms. Bieman generously suggests yours truly was trying to avoid “overkill” by this omission, but the truth is I just forgot which network was responsible for “Lou Grant.”
Charles Darling of Connecticut writes, “My … fear is that the fumbling of not just Dan Rather, but the whole ‘mired and muddled’ aspect of the [John] Kerry campaign is indeed to be blamed on a vast ‘RWC.’ Only this time it is not the ‘right wing conspiracy.’ Try: ‘Rodham wants candidacy – 2008.'”