In 2015, Cate Blanchett and Roger Redford starred in the movie Truth, which took a look at a controversy which occurred after CBS’ 60 minutes ran a story regarding then-President Bush’s experience with the Texas Air National Guard. Blanchett starred as Mary Mapes, the CBS producer who reported the story and Redford stars as Dan Rather, CBS’ legendary anchor. The film portrays Mapes as a noble journalist who may have cut some corners with verifying the documents which led to her downfall. Shortly after running the story, the legitimacy of the documents used is called into question by bloggers. This leads to the firing of Mapes and Rather’s retirement shortly thereafter.
Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post wrote about these bloggers in 2004. Essentially, bloggers began questioning the legitimacy of the documents shortly after the filming of the segment and then the questions raised by the bloggers raised spread like wildfire on the internet. As Charles Johnson, one of the bloggers, says in Kurtz’ column: “We’ve got a huge pool of highly motivated people who go out there and use the tools to find stuff. We’ve got an army of citizen journalists out there.” After the bloggers started questioning the memos, major news organizations joined in, but Kurtz notes that the bloggers had the advantage of speed and immediacy over the slower-moving professional outlets.
In the film, the role of the bloggers is somewhat glossed over. The film jumps from Mapes, Rather, and her crew celebrating the airing of the package with drinks to Mapes in the office presumably the next morning, when the allegations of the bloggers is brought to her attention. Mapes and the other professionals immediately discredit the bloggers as right-wing partisans, but shortly after Mapes is shown typing into the computer to see if the text on Microsoft Word compares to the text on the memos, and when it does is it clear she is questioning the documents. As the rest of the film unfolds, it becomes clear the legitimacy of the documents is questionable at best. Although the film hints that the documents are real and Mapes and Rather were being targeted by right-wingers who were adamantly hoping for Bush’s re-election, it is clear that it is unknown whether or not they were legitimate, with the likelihood being that they were forgeries.
In this controversy, independent bloggers played a huge role in holding a major corporate media outlet accountable. By providing a check on the mainstream media, these independent bloggers provided a service to America’s democracy.