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TIME's cover headline "Who Owns the Truth?" drew strong reactions from readers, many of whom rejected the inquiry out of hand [Sept. 27]. "What kind of question is that?" asked a Pennsylvanian. "Truth isn't about ownership; it's an obligation. You in the media need to start reporting the truth, or you will end up like the dinosaurs — extinct." A Canadian wrote, "Your question points to what is deeply wrong in the U.S.--the overblown attention given to the messenger to the detriment of the message. Real debate over serious issues is lost as reporters sell their souls for scoops and scandals." And a Californian grimly observed, "There's no such thing as truth anymore — red state, blue state or otherwise. There's only spin."

Who Owns the Truth?

"Journalists should be advocates for truth, not a bunch of 'he said, she said' stenographers just writing things down."
Vashon Island, Wash.

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Jan. 17, 2004

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IT IS LAUGHABLE AND TRAGIC THAT CBS'S failure to authenticate documents affirming what we all already know about George W. Bush's questionable National Guard duty would be used by some as proof of liberal bias in the media [Sept. 27]. If the media were truly leftist, they would be clamoring for the indictment of Bush and John Kerry for launching an illegal war on Iraq and for crimes against humanity perpetrated against Iraqis. CBS's Dan Rather may be an idiot, but it's an insult to true progressives to label him a leftist. He's just one more in a line of celebrity journalists.
Los Angeles

RATHER PUSHED SO HARD TO ACHIEVE the status of Walter Cronkite — the trusted conscience of America — that he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of history and lost sight of his duty to report the facts. Unfortunately, the history books aren't reserved for heroes alone.
Santa Clarita, Calif.

WHILE IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT CBS AND Rather aired this story before they looked at their source closely enough, they should be commended for admitting their mistakes. Still, the story should not end there. Bush should come clean and let us know the truth about his military-service records.
Spring, Texas

PERHAPS RATHER CAN LEARN HOW EASY IT is for a good leader to act on bad information produced by a normally reliable staff. Rather and President Bush have more in common than the CBS anchor would probably like to admit.
Dunwoody, Ga.

EVERYONE IN THE U.S. IS BEING HELD TO a higher standard than the President. The same people who are so vehement in their criticism of CBS and Rather continue to overlook the fact that Bush took us into war on the basis of faulty intelligence. Rather has apologized. Bush has expressed no regrets. But nobody died as a result of the CBS program.
Boulder, Colo.

THE MEDIA CANNOT BE PERMITTED TO manipulate the outcome of a national election. The Justice Department must investigate how CBS attempted to sway public opinion with phony documents from the Texas Air National Guard.
Clarkesville, Ga.

SINCE REPUBLICANS CAN NO LONGER blame the nation's troubles on communists, Democrats in Congress or the White House, they attack the free press. Problems in Iraq? It's because the media report only the bad news. Economic woes? It's because the media do not acknowledge the recovery. The same goes for Bush's record with the National Guard. Instead of answering the charges, Republicans attack the media for their coverage. And we still have no definitive answer to the question of whether Bush did his duty.
Raton, N.M.

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