2003_6_jessicalynch.jpgYesterday's Jim Rutenberg piece about CBS trying to land the Jessica Lynch interview by flexing its synergies with in the Viacom family (MTV, Simon & Schuster) was pretty disturbing, but not that surprising, given the incestuous nature of the media industries.

The Times based much of its article on a letter that CBS sent Lynch's representatives, which, Rutenberg writes, causes "among critics about the independence of news divisions owned by media giants." The letter from Betsy West, a CBS News senior vice president, said, "Attached you will find the outlines of a proposal that includes ideas from CBS News, CBS Entertainment, MTV networks and Simon & Schuster publishers. From the distinguished reporting of CBS News to the youthful reach of MTV, we believe this is a unique combination of projects that will do justice to Jessica's inspiring story." Which implies "tie-in" deal. ABC and NBC news divisions' spokespeople said they would never approach interview subjects this way.

But CBS is angry, issuing a statement that said "Unlike the New York Times' own ethical problems, there is no question about the accuracy or integrity of CBS News' reporting," which Variety calls a reference to the Jayson Blair scandal. Well, duh, and what a low blow - that's more Fox style, Gothamist thinks. Further, according to Pamela McClintock's Variety article, CBS says that the Times does not mention disclaimers in the letter:

"CBS News does not pay for interviews and it maintains a well-established separation from other parts of Viacom," the CBS statement said. "The letters selectively quoted by the Times, when read in their entirety, make that explicitly clear." The disclaimers included in the letter to Lynch's reps included, "CBS News maintains editorial independence from the entertainment division; "we never tie interview requests to entertainment projects"; and "we wanted to make sure that CBS News' proposal was being considered as a single entity," the CBS statement said. "Mysteriously, none of those statements found their way into the 'newspaper of record.'"

But CBS won't release the actual letter, which surprises media critics. McClintock adds, "Had the Times not gone through its recent dramatics, it is doubtful that CBS would have ever levied the sort of attack it did Monday." And the Times stands by Rutenberg's reporting. For now.

Gothamist on Jayson Blair.