Why Dan Rather’s Quivering Lip Is A Good Thing

by John Hawkins | September 20, 2005 4:15 pm

Poor Dan Rather! He’s so upset about the pressures that the mainstream media is under that his lip is quivering! Let’s tune in and see what Mr. Memogate has to say[1]:

“Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said Monday that there is a climate of fear running through newsrooms stronger than he has ever seen in his more than four-decade career.

…Addressing the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, occasionally forcing back tears, he said that in the intervening years, politicians “of every persuasion” had gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a “new journalism order.”

He said this pressure — along with the “dumbed-down, tarted-up” coverage, the advent of 24-hour cable competition and the chase for ratings and demographics — has taken its toll on the news business. “All of this creates a bigger atmosphere of fear in newsrooms,” Rather said.

Rather was accompanied by HBO Documentary and Family president Sheila Nevins, both of whom were due to receive lifetime achievement awards at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards on Monday evening.

…Nevin asked Rather if he felt the same type of repressive forces in the Nixon administration as in the current Bush administration.

“No, I do not,” Rather said. That’s not to say there weren’t forces trying to remove him from the White House beat while reporting on Watergate; but Rather said he felt supported by everyone above him, from Washington bureau chief Bill Small to then-news president Dick Salant and CBS chief William S. Paley.

“There was a connection between the leadership and the led . . . a sense of, ‘we’re in this together,”‘ Rather said. It’s not that the then-leadership of CBS wasn’t interested in shareholder value and profits, Rather said, but they also saw news as a public service. Rather said he knew very little of the intense pressure to remove him in the early 1970s because of his bosses’ support.

Nevins took up the cause for Rather, who was emotional several times during the event.

“When a man is close to tears discussing his work and his lip quivers, he deserves bosses who punch back. I feel I would punch back for Dan,” Nevins said.

Rather praised the coverage of Hurricane Katrina by the new generation of TV journalists and acknowledged that he would have liked to have reported from the Gulf Coast. “Covering hurricanes is something I know something about,” he said.

“It’s been one of television news’ finest moments,” Rather said of the Katrina coverage. He likened it to the coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

“They were willing to speak truth to power,” Rather said of the coverage.”

I absolutely love the idea of a “climate of fear running through newsrooms!” Know why? Because what they’re afraid of losing is their customers and that’s a good fear for any business to have.

It’s an especially good fear for newsrooms to have because many journalists, like Dan Rather, have believed throughout their careers that they could be completely indifferent to what the customer wanted and for a long time, because they essentially had a “gentleman’s monopoly” going, they got away with it.

Twenty years ago, if you didn’t like the liberal bias of CBS and didn’t trust them to be straight about the news, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Sure, you could turn the channel to ABC or NBC and get the same slant on the same news or open up your local paper and read essentially the same thing in print, but consumers had no real options, no real alternative views.

Today you have Fox, talk radio, and the internet giving the public a different perspective on the news. They cover stories that the MSM ignores, point out “inconvenient facts” the MSM buries, and are fair to people the MSM treats with contempt.

Take the hurricane Katrina coverage Rather thinks was one of the MSM’s “finest moments.” Many people believe that in actuality, that was the mainstream at its worst, at its most partisan. It wasn’t “speaking the truth to power,” it was an attempt by liberals to blatantly exploit a natural disaster to stick it to the hated Bush administration.

20 years ago, very few people in the media would have said that and even if they did, no one would have ever heard it because the left so completely dominated the media. Today, it’s being said in every medium across the board and hundreds of millions of Americans are hearing it.

Those Americans, after getting both sides of the issue, can now choose between a wide array of media sources. Maybe that means Dan Rather and some of his old media buddies are going to have to live in what they think of as a “climate of fear,” but their “fear” is good news for the American public.

  1. has to say: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=1141521&page=2

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