Dan Rather’s Plea To Save The News, Shows You What’s Wrong With The News.

This article about Dan Rather pleading with Obama to save the news industry tells you a lot about what’s actually wrong with the old media if you read between the lines,

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather called on President Barack Obama to form a White House commission to help save the press Tuesday night in an impassioned speech at the Aspen Institute.

“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.

Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.

At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon.

…Corporate and political influence on newsrooms, along with the conflation of news and entertainment, has created what Rather called “the dumbing down and sleazing up of what we see on the news.”

First problem: the article refers to Dan Rather as a “legendary newsman” as opposed to a “disgraced newsman.” This is a guy who tried to influence an election by promoting laughable forgeries, from a non-credible source, as the real deal. Yet, he’s “legendary.” Is it any wonder that so few people trust the media when monikers like that are applied to people like Dan Rather?

Next up, how much sense does it make to ask the government to come up with “business models to keep news organizations alive?” If the corporations and media honchos who live in the industry can’t do it, what would make anyone think a bunch of government pencil pushers, lawyers, and bureacrats can?

Let me also add that not every news organization is going down the tubes. Some of them seem to have found ways to survive and thrive. Just to name two: Fox News and the Huffington Post. Now I’m sure an old school news guy like Dan Rather would tut-tut that they’re “dumbing down and sleazing up of what we see on the news.”

However, that merely brings us to problem number three. One of the big reasons that so many “news organizations” are fading is that they believe that their customers should have to adapt to them, not vice-versa. At the end of the day, like it or not, the news business is a business and it has customers to please. A lot of the people in the news business absolutely hate that idea and want to roll back time a couple of decades before talk radio took off, before the net, and before Fox News to when it was just the Big 3 networks and the same tired old papers giving a slightly different version of the same news. It’s a very different world today and the media organizations out there have to change or go the way of the dinosaurs.

Speaking of which, the real point of appealing to the government is to have them change the rules of the game. What people like Rather really want is special privileges — tax breaks, tax dollars, or changes in the law that give them a big advantage over their competitors. However, that directly undercuts the idea that we’re going to have a “free and independent press.” What the government giveth, it can taketh away — and it would ultimately use that power to influence the press.

Last but not least, let me add that if the big 3 network news shows and every newspaper in America disappeared tomorrow, the “free and independent press” would still be alive and kicking. Today, there are a lot of bloggers, talk radio hosts, and other assorted and sundry websites and TV shows that rely heavily on stories done by the Big 3 or newspapers, but that’s simply because there’s no reason for them to do otherwise. For independent operators, there’s very little money in trying to compete with well funded, well staffed newspapers around the country to cover stories. If the field were to clear out, you’d start to see a lot more real journalism emerging from blogs, talk radio, and from hybrids that would spring up to fill the gap.

In other words, the more the old media dinosaurs give their last gasp and sink to the bottom of the tar pits, the more the smaller, faster new media mammals will take over their old stomping grounds — and we’ll probably all be better off for it.

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