Happy Trails -- Ververs Says Goodbye

(CBS)
Has it really been sixteen months since Public Eye launched? That's what the calendar claims but time must have been moving at an unnatural speed because it doesn't seem possible. Although perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at how quickly it's gone, given the amount of change we've seen at CBS News and in the media at large since we began. Now, for me it's at an end. I am leaving Public Eye to work on political coverage for CBSNews.com.

The recent seismic changes that have turned the traditional landscape upside down have opened as many new doors in the industry as they have threatened to close. Even two years ago, the word "blogger" was a strange and disrespected term in the "MSM." Now, many of those former critics are writing blogs of their own. YouTube has gone from a frat-house curiosity to the top of the media heap. The pre-dotcom-bubble promises of the Internet seem to finally be on their way to fulfillment. And this turmoil has opened up a new opportunity for myself at CBSNews.com, one I'm grateful for and excited about.

But it is with some mixed feelings that I leave Public Eye. As we observed at the time of its launch, this effort is something unprecedented in broadcast news -- an attempt to bring transparency to a business that has traditionally preferred to keep its process behind the curtain. PE is trying to reach out to an increasingly skeptical audience and bring them into a conversation about the news with those who are putting it on the air. It has been a very special privilege to have been a part of the first chapter of such an ambitious project and PE will always hold a special place in my career.

From my perspective, the most important challenge over the first 16 months has been to build credibility – both inside and outside of CBS News. It is understandable that both sides would look at us from a somewhat jaded point of view. Many internally feared that we would be constantly looking over their shoulders, micro-criticizing each move they made. Some on the outside wondered whether this effort wouldn't end up as a PR vehicle, used to defend the network from criticism rather than address it. The trick has been to be fair and tough on both sides.

Have we accomplished that? On the whole, I believe the answer is yes. In over 1,500 postings we've held correspondents to CBS standards and sought answers to controversial stories. We've facilitated debates between CBS producers and critics and taken the audience behind the scenes and inside the process. And that's just a sampling.

Of course we haven't been perfect. There have been times when, in our zeal to address a complaint we failed to get or understand everything that led to certain decisions or actions. There have been occasions where we might have been more aggressive in trying to get answers. But rest assured, any errors in judgment came from a strong desire to be fair, honest and accurate and not from any other agenda.

Public Eye is ready for some changes, and it will be up to Brian Montopoli and Hillary Profita to take it to the next level. I have no doubt of their ability to do so and will be watching with great interest, now from the other side. Both have been instrumental in our success so far and they belong at the top of my thank-you list.

It's not a short list. Public Eye would not exist without the vision, encouragement and strong support from Dick Meyer, Michael Sims, Betsy Morgan and Larry Kramer at CBSNews.com. They envisioned it, made it possible and fought for it and us along the way. They deserve the credit for being willing to take the risk.

A special thanks goes to former CBS News President Andrew Heyward who was instrumental in paving the way for Public Eye's mission. His early support and cooperation was vital in our initial introduction to the news division. Linda Mason, senior vice president for standards and special projects, has been invaluable in helping us understand and interpret the issues we so often deal with. Always responsive, always available, Linda holds the record for being the most-quoted CBS representative on the blog.

Public Eye couldn't have succeeded without the willingness of everyone at CBS News to help us understand the who, what, when and whys of their business. From correspondents to cameramen, from executives to producers to editors and directors, we've been helped by people from every part of the broadcast news world. I hope they have gotten as much out of it as we have.

Still, all those efforts would have gone for naught without you. Your comments, e-mails and observations have helped start this conversation but it's not always the serious, expansive dialogue it could be. Sometimes our participants can be angry, confusing and off-point but please, please don't let that stop you from joining in. It's so easy to register just that once, or to click that e-mail button and send your questions, thoughts or opinions. It's my last request – please join in the discussion.
  • Vaughn Ververs

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