Why CBS Stands for 'Caught Being Sneaky'

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Back when the written word was the predominant news medium, people would tell you not to believe everything you read. Then came the harsh realism of TV news, allowing us to witness wars and congressional bickering up close. But with the powers of new media come new dangers; and never has that been more evident than in the spat brewing between NBC and CBS. The Peacock network is fuming over the alteration of video images of New York City in several CBS news programs in which CBS logos are digitally superimposed on everything from horse-drawn carriages to billboards. The final straw came when CBS put its logo over an NBC video board during Dan Rather's New Year's Eve broadcast from Times Square. NBC is considering suing CBS for diminishing the exposure of an expensive ad. Rather says the, er, enhancement was the wrong thing to do, but the network stands behind its actions.

Lost in all of this, somehow, is the fact that one of America's most powerful and respected news organizations essentially altered the truth in its depiction of one of the most famous events ever. OK, so it wasn't exactly "Wag the Dog," but the alteration gives a particularly ugly face to a growing public disenchantment with ethics in journalism.

A series of high-profile cases of digital chicanery in recent years have increased skepticism of the entire news game — from Cokie Roberts claiming she was reporting from Capitol Hill when she was standing in front of a picture of the Capitol Building to the criticism TIME took for darkening O.J. Simpson's skin on its cover. But will there be pressure for reform, and if so, from where? The FCC traditionally shies away from policing news content. So until the corporate powers dominating the news industry come up with some sort of code of ethics, don't believe everything you see and hear.