The diva can still turn it around - Bob Paslay

I have argued for some time that Martha Stewart needs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by going ahead and serving her time and then getting on with life.

Now she has decided to do it and will be out in time for spring planting.

My plan was to surrender on the day she was sentenced so she could get out a few weeks before Christmas and have the mother of all Christmas television specials.

I have made my views crystal clear in previous columns and so I will not re-chew my Christmas pudding. But I do feel compelled to say one more time that nothing will be served by putting the diva in prison.

Is the goal to remind people that no one is above the law? Is that the goal of these Republican prosecutors who spent lots of taxpayers' money and even used a lying FBI agent to convict Stewart?

Well they missed the mark when they didn't put Richard Nixon in jail. Never have so many crimes been committed in such a mean spirited spree than by Nixon.

If the goal is to send a message today that crime won't be tolerated, then put Stewart in a work release program. Make her clean up at AIDS clinics, pick up trash on the streets that lead up to Wall Street. Make her punishment more visible.

Stewart was the kind of person some loved to hate and therefore it made it easier to throw her in the slammer.

I for one feel the opposite. Yes, she made a mistake. But Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta is loaded down with tons of crack-selling thugs who don't go to jail.

Martha Stewart is taking up a cell that should be occupied by a real criminal.

Stewart can still save her empire and turn everything around. It requires one element ? humor.

She needs to put out bathroom soap in the shape of a gun. She needs to unveil her new black and white striped towels. She needs to have a giant welcome back diva television special in which they eat off of tin plates.

Adults who beat up children or molest them, killers who stalk and kill innocent people like John Wayne Gacey are people we will forever hate. But after all, Martha's crime was marginal and with a little humor she can turn it around. After all, she still has her loyal supporters like me.

True document or not

I have no inside information to share on the raging controversy over whether the documents showing President Bush was a deadbeat in the National Guard are real or fake.

CBS has circled the wagons, saying it stands by the documents but shedding little or no additional information on how they obtained the documents or how they authenticated them.

As you could explain, other networks like ABC have been beating a path to experts who say they didn't authenticate anything for CBS and in two cases even warned the network to go slowly because the documents might be a fake.

The secretary for the national guard officer who allegedly wrote the documents had something interesting to say. She said she thought the documents were a fake. But she also said she believes her former boss, now dead, had the feelings about Bush dodging his duty that are indicated in the documents. She said she just doesn't believe he brought his frustration down to paper.

This is the only light I can shed on the issue from the perspective of an investigative reporter and then editor who oversaw some big investigation projects.

In that position you have to guard carefully against being used or rushing to judgment. It's like a hungry wolf. You taste blood. You are charged up. Someone throws a raw piece of meat in front of you. At that point, it is time to go to slow motion. Question where it came from. Question the motives of those giving you the documents. Make the reporter or whoever brought the documents forward prove that you have this nailed down.

Reporters like the hungry wolf will curse you in the newsroom. They will tell you that you are being overly harsh in making them jump through hoops.

But do not rush to do something you will regret later. Now CBS is stuck. Its credibility is in question on one of the biggest stories of this political season. If the documents turn out to be fake, its credibility and viewership will dive at a time it can't afford to lose any more viewers.

And the sad part is journalism can't afford to lose any more credibility. I want to read the story on how this all came about because the how fascinates me, what broke down if it broke down, who dropped the ball or ignored the warning signals.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.