WILL RATHER WEATHER NEW HURRICANE?

Storm clouds continued to hover over CBS News Tuesday following reports that a CBS producer arranged a conversation between the source of the now discredited documents concerning George W. Bush's National Guard service and the presidential campaign of John Kerry. CBS released a statement saying that the reports would be investigated by the independent review panel that it was setting up to assess the scandal. Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Joe Lockhart, a John Kerry campaign aide, confirmed that CBS had given him the phone number of its source for the story, retired National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett and that he talked to Burkett several days before the story aired. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, Bob Steele, who teaches journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL, said: "CBS is already in an extremely difficult position to explain and justify their journalistic modus operandi, and now they have an increasingly complicated challenge of explaining a further breach of professionalism and ethical standards." Meanwhile, numerous mainstream newspapers are calling for a housecleaning at CBS News. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer, in an editorial headlined "Dear Dan, it's time to go," calls the CBS fiasco "colossal" and says that Rather must be removed "if CBS News is to salvage its credibility." Newsday says editorially that the CBS blunder "casts a shadow over the entire news business" and accuses the network of "sloppy journalism." Likewise the San Antonio Express-News observes in an editorial: "In its careless use of documents that were quickly recognized as forgeries by others, it stained not only on its own reputation but also the image of other media that labor daily to bring credible information to the public. The network has given ammunition to those who would besmirch the credibility of all mainstream media."

The Charlotte Observer's editorial headline reads "CBS Botched It," and the newspaper comments, "Journalism can ill afford such shoddy work." Fox News commentator Mike Straka received a call on his answering machine from Donald Trump, replying to his question, what would happen if Rather were a contestant on The Apprentice? Trump replied: "I would fire Dan Rather." Also today, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the scandal has demoralized the CBS News staff, quoting Steve Kroft of the 60 Minutes Sunday edition as saying, "People are pretty down and depressed. ... Everybody's asking, 'How could this happen?'"

CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer remarked, "It's tough, and it's really hurt people here." He expressed amazement that the story got on the air without the show's producer, Josh Howard, knowing the source. "How do you get to that point?" he asked, adding, "It's inexcusable." 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt told the Inquirer that he was not consulted about the story -- nor about any other story that has aired on the network's prestigious news magazine since he left, even though the network signed a 10-year contract with him as a consultant. He said that when he left the show, CBS asked him "to stick around and lend a helping hand." But, he added, "when push came to shove, nobody asked me to do that." Nevertheless, in a separate interview with the New York Daily News Hewitt criticized the Sunday 60 Minutes staff for criticizing their colleagues. "They're piling on. It's unfair, uncalled for and not the way that grown men should act," Hewitt said.

SURVIVOR CLOBBERS JOEY

The premiere of CBS's Survivor: Vanuatu pushed NBC's Friends spin-off Joey from first to eighth place last week and helped the network win the week in overall households. Still, the new NBC sitcom held up reasonably well among 18-49 year-old viewers (although Survivor topped it in that demo as well), and the network was also relieved to learn that the second season of the Apprentice reality series with Donald Trump performed solidly. In addition, NBC got unexpectedly strong ratings for Maria Shriver's interview with Siegfried and Roy, which ranked tenth for the week. In overall ratings, CBS averaged a 7.2 rating and a 12 share for the week. NBC placed second with a 6.6/11. ABC followed with a 6.1/10, while Fox trailed with a 3.1/5.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.0/22; 2. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 12.5/21; 3. Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS, 11.7/19; 4. Will & Grace, NBC, 10.8/17; 5. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.6/18; 6. Without a Trace, CBS, 10.5/18; 7. Apprentice 2, NBC, 10.4/17; 8. Joey, NBC, 10.1/17; 8. NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 10.1/16; 10. Siegfried & Roy: Miracle, NBC, 9.8/15.

REALITY SHOW FINALES SCORE BIG NUMBERS FOR CBS

It may only have been the second day of the new season, but the wind-up of CBS's summer reality series Big Brother 5 and Amazing Race 5 overwhelmed new offerings on the other networks and helped the network win Tuesday night with an average 7.7/12. NBC placed second for the night with an average 6.6/11, winning the 10:00 hour with the season premiere of Law and Order: SVU. ABC was close behind with an average 6.4.10.

MARTHA STEWART SOON TO BE LIVING IN JAIL

Martha Stewart has been ordered to begin serving her five-month prison sentence before Oct. 8th. Federal Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum granted her request that she be allowed to begin serving her time even as she appealed her conviction for lying about her sale of ImClone stock so that she could "reclaim my good life" and put her legal ordeal behind her.

WRITERS ELECT PETRIE

By a landslide margin, members of the Writers Guild of America have voted to keep Daniel Petrie Jr. as president. Petrie, who had been appointed to the post last March following the resignation of Charles Holland, received 1,506 votes to 541 for his opponent, Eric Hughes. The WGA has been plagued by tumult in its upper ranks for more than a year. Last year's winner, Victoria Riskin, was forced to resign when it was discovered that she was ineligible because of insufficient writing credits. She was succeeded by Holland, who also was forced to resign after it was disclosed that he had doctored his résumé. Meanwhile, the WGA has been unable to negotiate a new contract with film and TV producers, and members have been working without a contract since May 2.

DISNEY BOARD SAYS IGER IS ONLY INSIDER BEING CONSIDERED FOR CEO POST

Robert Iger is the only possible candidate within the Walt Disney Co. who is being considered as a possible successor to CEO Michael Eisner, board chairman George Mitchell said Tuesday following a meeting of the Disney board. He said that the company plans to engage an executive search firm to identify candidates outside the company, He said that Eisner's replacement will be announced before next June. Disney dissidents Roy Disney and Stanley Gold have demanded that the board appoint a successor for Eisner before the next annual shareholders' meeting, which is likely to be held in March. Since the board has now decided to set a June deadline, the pair are expected to run an alternate slate of directors at the March meeting to take control and oust Eisner.

DESPITE EARLIER HASSLE WITH DISNEY, MIRAMAX WILL BACK MOORE'S NEWEST FILM

Miramax is proceeding with plans to back Michael Moore's next documentary about the American health care system and to distribute it once it's completed, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday), citing no sources. Disney CEO Michael Eisner has apparently not indicated whether he plans to nix the new film, titled Sicko, as he did Moore's previous film, Fahrenheit 9/11. If he does, Variety observed, it could further jeopardize the already fragile relationship that exists between Eisner and Miramax Co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

FAHRENHEIT GETS WARM RECEPTION BY U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ

Although Fahrenheit 9/11 has been widely condemned by conservative commentators as a device to undermine the U.S. public's support for American troops in Iraq, the film, now widely available on DVD, has become a big hit among the troops themselves, the Christian Science Monitor reported today (Wednesday). "Everyone's watching it," a Marine corporal in Ramadi told the newspaper. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."

MPAA APPLAUDS ENACTMENT OF NEW ANTI-PIRACY LAW

The MPAA has hailed the enactment of a new California law making it a crime to distribute a movie or music over the Internet without including information that includes the email address of the distributor. The law, signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Tuesday, carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines. "We are grateful that Gov. Schwarzenegger has championed and now signed this landmark legislation into law," Motion Picture Association of America president and CEO Dan Glickman said in a statement. "He has a unique understanding of the powerful impact of piracy on the lives of thousands who make their living in the entertainment industry." He called upon other states to enact similar legislation.

SOFT PORN KING MEYER DEAD AT 82

"Soft porn" producer-writer-director Russ Meyer, whose films include 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written with film critic Roger Ebert), the 1965 cult hit Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and 1959's The Immoral Mr. Teas, has died in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia at the age of 82.