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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

You have to look beyond skin deep to really cover most stories these days

Life continues to be a lesson for me and most people I know EVERY SINGLE day. As a result, we should not be surprised that what usually seems a cinch in covering news stories is not always the case.

Here are a couple of examples of on-going stories and why caution and digging should be the order of the day, and then some info on one story that is about to develop, but you heard it here first.

First of all, we have the ugly and on-going saga of "what the heck were you thinking" at CBS and what most people, including the network itself, now agree were FORGED documents on the story about George Bush's service in the Texas National Guard. It is clear that some caution and good old digging could have averted this blunder.

As news people, we should be angry and embarrassed that the much-maligned profession we have dedicated our lives to is being punked (to use current Generation X-Y vernacular) and soiled by people who know better. Unfortunately for you and me, the folks behind the CBS debacle are proving they are more interested in saving their backsides than protecting the values of truth and journalistic integrity.

The experts whom CBS claimed authenticated the documents say they warned the network of the forgeries and they spoke up late last week in order to defend THEIR professional integrity. Kudos to Peter Jennings and ABC News for doing a good job in finding and then giving the two forensic examiners a chance to give us the true info on their role in this caper.

However, the national news icon behind this charade, who shall remain nameless but his initials are D.R., refuses to accept the inevitable truth about what he and his colleagues have done. As a result, D.R. interviewed an 86-year-old former military secretary on 60 Minutes who ALSO pointed out the documents used were fakes and that she DID NOT type them. The only consolation prize that news icon D.R. got out of the woman's recollection is that more than 30 years ago, she saw OTHER documents that contained similar information about Bush's footloose and fancy-free attitude while in the National Guard.

Let me ask you this: How convincing, or better yet, how credible, can an 86-year-old be on a major news network show in recalling the contents of a letter 32 years ago regarding a topic that was not a big deal at THAT time? Sounds like another strike-out for the Black Eye Network.

It's too bad that this story is dragging down the image, in the eyes of many Americans, of so many dedicated news people, reporters, producers and anchors. D.R. has become the butt of late night network comedians' jokes and that's never really good news for the news profession.

And by the way, I am still waiting to hear an explanation from D.R. on what he meant when he said, while being challenged on the faked documents, "I KNOW the story (about Bush's alleged evasions) is true." We want to know HOW you know, Dan. Don't hang more news folks out to dry by saying you know and then not giving us the beef. It hurts us all, damn it!!

Now, does this CBS debacle have tails, as they say in the political world? I am talking about tails that will cause more problems, not get more votes or support. I believe the answer is best answered in a story about to sprout wings over the next three weeks.

The allegations of negligence or malfeasance against CBS, assertions it has attempted to perpetuate a gross fraud on the American public, and that it has been evasive and downright misleading, suggest to many that this is not the work of a reputable news division.

Their strategy to batten down the hatches and hope the document flap blows over and is eventually just chalked up as a "controversial report," instead of dealing seriously on air with the doubts and retracting and apologizing, is about to bite them in the proverbial ass.

This strategy cannot be tolerated by the broader political and journalistic community. Until CBS cleans its own house, it cannot be considered just another news organization, in good journalistic standing. Which brings us to the presidential debates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled a debate on foreign policy for October 13 at Arizona State University. The moderator the commission has seen fit to anoint for this encounter is Bob Schieffer of CBS News. In other words, one of the greatest gifts in terms of exposure and responsibility in the fall campaign is being handed to a representative of the CBS News division, Managing Editor Dan Rather's News division.

A movement is developing that says this anointment cannot be allowed to stand, given the evident disregard CBS has for fairness and accuracy. Schieffer, they claim, should be replaced by someone from another news organization. And why not, since we have ABC, NBC, CNN, and Fox as the four other major networks and there will only be three presidential debates and one VP glabfest?

This is not to say that Schieffer himself is not a decent guy or a professional, nor is it to suggest that he personally had any role in the National Guard story. But the CBS controversy is about more than one stubborn icon, Dan Rather. The credibility of the entirety of CBS News is at stake. If outsiders are being stonewalled, it is up to insiders who care about the reputation of CBS to step up - insiders like Schieffer.

In the meantime, getting bumped from the moderator role would just be the price Bob Schieffer pays for being affiliated with an increasingly disreputable and discredited news organization.

This flap has raised critical questions about the objectivity and increased partisanship of the "EYE" Network and some of its personnel. Even the old curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, has labeled his immediate boss, Dan Rather, as a "transparent liberal". Andy caught hell for it internally, but at least he was willing to stand up for the truth and for what he believes in -- INTEGRITY.

Should the Commission on Presidential Debates be asked to place the INTEGRITY of the debates and the commission itself at the top of its considerations about the ASU debate?

Schieffer has unfortunately been stained by the actions of his boss and the production staff at CBS. Further, the failure of his organization to step up to the plate and do a mea culpa for its despicable, unprofessional, and inexcusable actions raises serious questions and concerns about CBS' entire organization, including Schieffer.

On the evening of the debate, I believe Americans want to focus on the questions of the moderator and the responses of the candidates. I do not believe viewers want to worry about the nature of the questions, the issue of credibility of the questioner, or some latent partisanship creeping in simply because he represents what Jay Leno called the "Cock and Bull Story" Network, CBS.

If the presidential debate organizers take the same kind of stubborn stand we see from CBS and put their reputation on someone from the "BLACK EYE" Network, many people will wonder why someone from one of the more credible news networks wasn't call in to pinch hit and swing a more objective news bat.

Is it worth the risk for the Commission on Presidential Debates to hold its nose high in the air and ignore the growing movement against Bob Schieffer? I think not. Just look at what ignoring the obvious is doing to the ratings and reputation of CBS News.

Finally, the media perhaps should do some digging in the political world as we enter the final five weeks before the election, especially in California. It is getting interesting to try and understand the commercials involving some of the propositions on the November ballot in La La Land.

We'll touch on one in particular right now - Proposition 68, which would essentially give Native American tribes the opportunity to expand casino operations into more urban and suburban areas on land that has NOT previously been designated by the Feds as long-standing tribal-owned land. So instead of more casinos being built in remote, harsh areas given to them by the Bureau of Indian Affairs tens of decades ago, the tribes could buy a plot of land in downtown Los Angeles, San Francisco, or anywhere and declare it sovereign Indian land, free of interference from local and state government.

The majority of commercials tell us Prop 68 is bad because it will create more traffic, more pollution, more crime, blah, blah, blah. Is this true? Who knows and who cares? What is interesting is that we're also told that the Governator is now also opposing the measure, an obvious effort to convince voters that if Arnold is against Prop 68, so should everyone else.

The challenge for the news media here is whether our news organizations will ever tell the public what the commercials only barely touch on as part of the full disclosure requirements of political ads. Will the public ever be told by their news reporters that the Prop 68 opposition is composed of, and primarily funded, by the five California tribes who have ALREADY cut a deal with Governor Arnold to provide more of their revenues to the state?

As a result - (are you sitting down?) - they oppose Prop 68 because they are trying to kill off any other Native American competition in California from the remaining 54 tribes who do NOT either have current casino operations or they did not cut a deal with Sacramento.

So in what appears to be a cultural version of what is often referred to as "corporate greed" or "corporate throat-cutting", the rich and politically-connected Big Five Tribes are telling Californians that those "OTHER" Indians from the ratty desert areas and boondocks will bring more traffic, crime, pollution, etc., to our back yards.

Therefore, they insist, vote against Prop 68 to stop such a blatant attempt at American Indian entrepreneurship - and as a result, allow the Big Five Tribes to control Las Vegas-style gambling in California.

Hmm, I think I see some revealing stories here for Joe and Sally Six-pack who are trying to get the REAL facts behind the November propositions, including Prop 68.