22 thoughts on “Goodbye to All That: Dan Rather goes the way of the dinosaurs”

  1. CBS needs to fire Dan Rather for his false reporting and attempted cover up. It seems very obvious how the term RATHER BIASED came into being and continues to this day. The networks should only be reporting the news not trying to create it for political parties,

  2. Jeff I will agree to that if we can also sue the pants off all the “Swift Boat Liars for Bush” for libel and slander for spreading malicious falsehoods about John Kerry war record and war-time commendations for bravery and valor.

  3. Dean, I think you’re comparing apples to oranges. The Swifties are making claims based on their personal experience which nobody has disproved, and John Kerry has refused to take questions from reporters for the last month-and-a-half because he doesn’t have a good answer. Dan Rather, on the other hand, persists in foisting documents on the American public which have been proved many times over to be false. He should be fired not because he doesn’t like Bush, but because he is committing journalistic fraud and refusing to account for it.

  4. Even if the documents wre written wiyh crayon, yhe fact is that George Bush avoided the draft because of his families wealth,he lied about Iraq and is totally alinged with the religous right who by the way do not believe we are true Christians. By the way not one of swift boaters were on Kerry’s boat

  5. Bill: The most alarming aspect of he CBS/Dan Rather incident is the continuing demise of network news as an objective source of information. Thirty years ago American families, regardless of their political orientation, sat around the television and listened to Walter Cronkite, Eric Severied and Huntley and Brinley, and no one questioned their competence or objectivity.

    Today we have some news programs, like Fox news, or Crossfire with Carville and Begala, that reflect a more “market-niche” approach. From an advertisisng standpoint this makes sense; a more loyal but less broad audience might be more attractive to advertisers than an audience that is broader, but shallower. The information Americans receive is increasingly conforms to their own political preferences and is unchallenged by competing viewpoints. While the news reporting on Fox is fairly unbalanced, the reporting on CNN is often just plain shoody and shallow and verges on “info-tainment”.

    We need a news organization in America like the BBC that everyone can respect and trust. The old network news organizations , CBS, NBC and ABC should have stepped in to fill that role. Instead they just continue to shoot themselves in the foot.

  6. I agree with your comment, Dean, but would sharpen it a bit by stating that Dan Rather has thrown away his journalistic integrity in favor of his own beliefs. This would be egregious no matter what side he was on. The serious issue here is not the political battle: that will always be with us.

    I would be careful about calling the current BBC completely trustworthy, since their stated policy as the war in Iraq loomed was to oppose it and to do so by using language that condemned American actions.

  7. Don’t forget that two BBC reporters were fired for fabricating stories that were highly critical of the United States.

  8. Bill writes: “Dan Rather, on the other hand, persists in foisting documents on the American public which have been proved many times over to be false. He should be fired not because he doesn’t like Bush, but because he is committing journalistic fraud and refusing to account for it.”

    Does that mean the Bush administration should be fired for publicizing the Niger documents after they had been informed that the documents were forged?

  9. Can we tighten the critical focus just a little, please? Like Dean earlier, Jim, you’re comparing apples to oranges. The issue of presidential integrity certainly bears discussion, but the issue here is journalistic integrity. If Dan Rather had rushed to publish equally questionable documents against a Democratic candidate, his integrity would be equally suspect, and I, for one, would still be calling for his resignation. It doesn’t matter so much that we have bias in reporting; that’s always been the case. But if impartial standards for reliability and accountability are not adhered to, then our national discourse will drown under opposing tidal surges of propaganda.

    Our feelings may impel us to debate each other, but we cannot debate on the basis of feelings. If we do so, we confuse the issues, cloud our own understanding, and move ever farther away from true civil discourse.

  10. Bill writes: “Like Dean earlier, Jim, you’re comparing apples to oranges.”

    The comparisons are quite striking:

    1) documents from an unknown source come to light
    2) documents up front are thoroughly discredited (Niger) or very questionable (Bush).
    3) claims are made based on those documents
    4) documents are publicly refuted
    5) claims are then made that even though the documents are fabrications the content is true and can be verified from other sources — “British intelligence” (Niger) or “people who knew Bush and his commander at that time” (Bush).
    6) people backtrack as the information is “not strong enough to have been included in an important speech” (Niger) or “not up to journalistic standards” (Bush)

  11. Jim, there are many similarities, but they are on the surface. I’m talking about the deeper difference between the two issues, which require (IMO) that they be treated separately. One, as I said, is about national intelligence, the other is about journalistic integrity. Apples and oranges indeed. And this thread is about Dan Rather, not Niger.

    I’m not saying “Don’t discuss Niger.” I’m saying “Discuss everything in order.”

  12. It’s a good maxim. Just as the CBS failure doesn’t excuse the failure with the Niger documents, neither does the Niger failure soften CBS culpability — which seems to be growing by the hour. More simply: two wrongs don’t make a right.

  13. The point is that this situation is being presented as the death knell for Rather and CBS news. I don’t think so. Not many years ago there was the situation with CBS and William Westmoreland. It wasn’t the end of Mike Wallace and CBS news.

    At least I hope it isn’t the end of them. The fact that Rather and CBS can be critcized shows that journalism and journalistic standards still exist, and that objectivity is still an appropriate goal, if not a fully-realized goal. In other words, if a journalist shows bias, that bias can be rightly criticized. But many in the right-wing media are basically immune from criticism because they aren’t even considered journalists but propagandists. Criticizing Rush, Sean, Bill, Alan, Michael, and others for being biased is like criticizing the Pope for being Catholic. It’s what they are, and there is no pretense of objectivity, fairness, or even accuracy. Increasingly, propaganda is the source of news for many citizens.

    How would something like the recent Bush documents have been handled by the right wing? Simple. Drudge breaks the “story.” The “story” is then picked up by Fox News and by every right-wing talk show host in the country. If the mainstream media didn’t report the “story” day and night, this would be evidence of their “liberal bias.” In either case the right-wing media would report the story day and night. Eventually the documents would be shown to be false, but at that point it really wouldn’t matter. The damage would have been done. Of course, the best thing would be if the story weren’t even based on any documents; that way they wouldn’t have to worry about them being discredited.

    The lesson of the Rather and CBS situation is that the system works — that journalism still exists, and that objectivity and accuracy are still journalistic values, and that a news organization can be rightly criticized when it fails to adhere to these values. To the extent that the right wing propaganda machine increases its influence over the media and the national discourse, this will cease to be the case. If you don’t like Dan Rather, then put Rush “Buddy can you spare me an Oxycontin” Limbaugh in his chair and see what happens.

  14. I think you’ve stated the issue pretty well this time, Jim, although some of your comparisions are still inaccurate. What needs to happen is that both the media and the audience re-learn the difference between reporting and commentating. Commentating is the place to express bias, and there’s nothing wrong with that, on either side. It’s part of social communication. But reporting is not the place to express bias. This is why comparing Dan Rather, (ostensibly) a reporter, to Rush Limbaugh, a commentator, is still not a good example.

  15. Bill writes: “This is why comparing Dan Rather, (ostensibly) a reporter, to Rush Limbaugh, a commentator, is still not a good example.”

    But wouldn’t you say that whatever his official role, so to speak, Limbaugh and others now function as reporters, at least with respect to the influence they wield?

    Here’s what I mean: what shows up on the major media outlets on a daily basis defines what is news. In other words, if the major media are talking about the validity of Kerry’s medals, then *that* is the news story of the day, merely in virtue of the fact that that’s what is being reported. So news organizations don’t just present content; they define what constitute the major stories and thus define the issues that people are thinking about.

    To a large extent the so-called commentators have taken over that role. Years ago, a “commentator” was someone who had a minute at the end of the nightly news, or maybe had a weekly program for an hour. Even in those cases, objectivity and fairness were valued. Look at William F. Buckley’s old _Firing_Line_ program on public TV. Buckley obviously had a perspective. But he invited top-ranking guests on the other side of the issues for debate and discussion. When you were done watching Firing Line you were smarter about the issue under discussion, even if you disagreed with Buckley.

    Now, instead of a minute at night or an hour on Sunday, the “commentators” have programs that last for two or three hours a day on the radio, often in addition to nightly TV programs. Rather than being objective, many of the programs are “liberals suck,” “liberals hate America,” “liberals are evil,” and so on. The quality of the discussion, if you can call it that, is very poor. The other side of the issue is rarely presented in a sympathetic manner. When opposing guests are brought on the show, it’s basically the attack dog host vs. a politician or an actual journalist. So the deck is always stacked and fairness exists largely in pretense.

    In addition to the radio and TV shows, these guys write books. They then make the rounds on all the other shows, and they hype each other’s books on their shows. And all of this is in addition to other speeches, interviews, articles, and so on.

    The net effect is that certain “commentators” set more of the agenda and have more of an effect than do the traditional journalists. They have enormous audiences, and enormous influence. This is magnified by the “echo chamber” effect, in which stories from each of these guys are picked up by the others and repeated. If Kerry changes his mind on something, the entire country will be informed of his “flip-flop,” through Drudge, tens of thousands of other blogs, hundreds of radio talk show programs, Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, etc., etc.

    Even as these guys gain vastly more influence they operate outside of the norms that apply to journalists. In a sense, these commentators are to journalism what professional wrestlers are to real wrestling. But for many people that distinction is fading.

  16. My son had it right many years ago. He called “Dan Rather” his more appropriate name of “Dan Blather.” What a fitting end to Dan’s career.

  17. I’m so sick of right-wing hypocrites like Charles. Just lst Friday Fox apologizd for posting a totally fabricated story about John Kerry written by correspondent Carl Cameron. The story contained garbage like “”I’m metrosexual ? he’s a cowboy,” the Democratic candidate said of himself and his opponent.”


    “If the quotes seem too good to be true, that’s because they were. The article was a joke created by Cameron, the network’s top political reporter, and according to Fox was never meant for the public eye. But due to an editing error it appeared on Foxnews.com.

    The story was highlighted by Washington reporter Joshua Micah Marshall on his Web log Talking Points Memo.com before it abruptly vanished from cyberspace.

    “Carl Cameron made a stupid mistake. And he has been reprimanded for his lapse of judgment. It was a poor attempt at humor which he regrets,” said Paul Schur, a spokesman for Fox News.

    By noon Foxnews.com posted a retraction and apology for the piece, saying, “Earlier Friday, FOXNews.com posted an item purporting to contain quotations from Kerry. The item was based on a reporter’s partial script that had been written in jest and should not have been posted or broadcast. We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice.”

    The problem is not that Fox correspondent Carl Cameron was engaging in humor, but that Fox News, the “fair and balanced” network has assigned a correspondent to cover a candidate that he views as an object of mockery and contempt. If someone from CNN had done something like this to Bush, the right-wingers would have been howling like banshees.

  18. Dean, you’re missing a very obvious point which you yourself outline in detail. Fox apologized for and retracted their story, and explained their error. CBS and Rather have yet to do either: according to them, the NG memos are “fake but accurate” (a frighteningly Orwellian turn of phrase from the NYT). Fox upheld journalistic standards; CBS continues to traduce them.

    Moreover, I suggest (in light of the recent discussion of ad hominem attacks on this blog) that when you utter harsh criticisms, you focus on behavior, not the actual person. Call Charles’ words hypocritical if you must, but not him a hypocrite.

  19. Whoops! I contradicted myself. It would be pretty tough for Dan Rather and CBS to come up with a quote which originated with the New York Times. Instead of “according to them,” I might better have writtten “they agree with the idea that.”

    How’s that for accuracy in opinionation? 🙂

  20. The only way we will ever have a remotely rational tax policy is if we are able to separate the (supposedly) primary purpose of taxes, i.e., raise revenue for legitimate government functions and services, from the social engineering function. The current income tax has ALWAYS been a tool for punishing the “rich”. Just look at the history of its proposal and adoption.

    Given the proclivity of both major parties to use the tax code to reward their constituents and punish the other parties constituents, it is unlikely that should the Fair Tax be adopted that it would stay fair (or even close) for very long.

    Even the exemptions that would have to be granted to even get it passed in the first place (income, food and other essentials, etc) take us down that road right away.

  21. Father Jacobse: Sorry about that, and my apologies to Charles. I shouldn’t attempt to post responses when I am overtired and cranky, as I was last night. This blog provides a valuable forum for rewarding discussions and debates, and maintaining the quality of that debate requires that we observe a respectful tone towards each other.

    I do think that given the recent low quality of media coverage in general, the focus on Dan Rather has been disproportionate, but there was probably a better way to express my thoughts.

Comments are closed.