Today at the trial of a man nicknamed "Scooter," a man named Ari (well-known for years as a staple of television coverage of the Bush White House) joined others in painting a verbal picture of a White House obsessed with a newspaper article, and in media coverage in general. His testimony, arranged through a deal for immunity (which, he pointed out today, does not insulate him from charges of perjury), added to the damage that's seemingly been done already to Lewis "Scooter" Libby's case. At the crux of it is a very simple question: How did Scooter learn that the writer of a newspaper opinion piece was married to an undercover CIA employee? Scooter contends he learned from a journalist. Others contend that he learned the information independently, from within the government, and tried to pass it on to reporters. That's what this trial is all about. If the jury decides it's the latter, it's trouble for Scooter. We'll cover it all tonight and as it develops.
There are a number of complex moving parts in the Middle East, from Iraq to Israel. Jane Arraf will join us from Baghdad tonight. We'll report on a big day for wounded veterans in Texas: A mere down payment for a group to whom so much is owed. Our travels tonight will take us to New Orleans... to the Coast Guard... and to the American road -- where we will look at teenagers in danger.
Also tonight, we'll cover a story that brought tears to the eyes of one of our producers today, and caused another to say, "We'll have tears at home when my daughter hears this." Barbaro was put to sleep this morning, after a gallant fight. The horse's owners, trainers and doctors -- who say they went to extraordinary lengths motivated only by this extraordinary horse -- made a decision this morning that Barbaro could not withstand another operation. In the end, it was the fear for Barbaro's quality of life that led to the decision to end Barbaro's life. It's a piece we are calling "The Death of a Champion."
THINKING OF OUR FRIENDS
Two colleagues at competing networks were on our minds today: Kimberly Dozier visited CBS News headquarters here in New York, where she received a hero's welcome. As I've said in this space before, I've not seen her since we spent hours together in Mosul, Iraq, hanging out with U.S. soldiers while American generals met with local leaders. Kimberly is a great soul and a great reporter and has made an unbelievable recovery from her wounds in Iraq. So has Bob Woodruff. It was a year ago today when Bob was traveling in an Iraqi/American convoy, reporting a story for ABC News. That he is alive today says so much about the extraordinary military medical team that attended to him almost immediately. His friends are in awe of his recovery (as is anyone who comes in contact with him), and most important: his family is whole. All those who know both reporters have given thanks to the extraordinary talents and dedication of the U.S. military, whose work must be seen, in action, to be believed.
I was stunned recently to discover that my son's high school history teacher accepted Wikipedia as bona fide source material on a paper he was writing. You may know the joke: So many people found Britannica and other encyclopedias "so annoyingly correct and factual" that Wikipedia was invented, to inject a "badly-needed randomness" into the encyclopedia world, and its maddening exactness. Maybe we've been too wrapped up in the whole "getting the facts right" thing as a society. A recent article cited 16 obituaries found on Wikipedia -- for people who are very much alive and well and planning to enjoy dinner with loved ones tonight. There's the famous case of John Seigenthaler (father of my NBC News colleague), say nothing of the errors we've all learned of firsthand or anecdotally, on the site maintained by "volunteer" contributors, in effect, and overseen by OTHER contributors. I was further stunned at an article in this morning's New York Times (NYTimes.com login required for link) -- reporting on Wikipedia's use as source material in "over 100 judicial rulings" around the country. Federal Judge Richard Posner of Chicago calls it "a terrific resource," but goes on to say, "it wouldn't be right to use it in a critical issue." The article goes on to report that Posner himself was the subject of a Wiki-error: It reported that Ann Coulter was a former clerk of his. Judge Posner has never met Ann Coulter. A Harvard Law professor is quoted as saying Wikipedia "doesn't have quality control," and another professor says it's best used for "soft facts." Those don't hurt or cause damage anything like those pesky "hard facts." Make no mistake: Americans have voted with their keyboards not to let a few facts get in the way of convenience. Wikipedia is now what the Times calls "the default reference for the curious" -- boasting 38 million unique visitors during December, making it the 13th most popular (non-Paris Hilton-related) site on the Web. Wikipedia's own numbers may differ.