Will 'Rathergate' Cost CBS Ad Dollars?

CBS News - once the citadel of TV Network news - should be the last place in the world of journalism to take a dollar-and-cents point of view.

But in light of CBS' own headline-making news -- concerning the veracity of the documents surrounding President Bush's stint in the Air National Guard -- questions need to be asked; inquiries need to surface that the press wouldn't typically delve into this time of year.

The question is about business: Will CBS' error cost it advertising revenue?

Journalistic fobs penalized by long-term advertising defections are rare. Still, new competitors -- cable networks, Internet news sites, and bloggers -- are all vying for attention, whether they deserve it or not. Increasingly, news viewers are scattered in many different directions and with them goes the advertising.

CBS was quick to identify and publicize the fault - the best and only approach a news organization can take. This in itself could keep an honest profile. News organizations make mistakes all the time, but few get the attention that this one did.

Viewers are sympathetic to individuals or groups that admit blunders. As an inadvertent gain to this mistake, viewers get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts of TV news reporting - a real-life drama that no modern-day reality show could reveal.

CBS should stick to some of these behind-the-scene stories. How did it get a great scoop? How did it miss one? Great television comes from trouble and headaches.

A host of media outlets covered this story, including network competitors such as ABC's "Nightline." That is good news. A little press for the press can only help to stir the pot for nascent news viewers. This includes not only audiences who now go to Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, the Internet, and other news outlets, but for CBS itself.

Higher viewers might draw in new advertisers - not just pharmaceutical companies -- to news shows. Traditional TV news advertisers seek mostly older viewers -- the most dominant demographic of TV news.

CBS is pressured to get great stories, and fast. Now that's changed. But this means opportunity. Looking at the real business of journalism, CBS can now get down to business.

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