Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who refused to go silently into retirement after the network dumped him in 2005, spoke last week to a group of students at American University about the future of journalism.
Rather, who held the anchor job for 24 years, told the students that the increasingly biased media will threaten the U.S. and that “A free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom.”
He went on to remind the audience that shows that feature the likes of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are opinion and not news and that the “underlying impetus of the media is to generate profits.”
Hallelujah! After spending 43 years at CBS and another five plus in exile Rather is finally concerned about media bias.
This coming from a man who was so bent on defeating President Bush in 2004 that he continued to push a story about Bush and his National Guard service long after questions were raised as to its accuracy and validity. And even after an independent investigation found that the network failed to follow basic journalistic practices Rather refused to accept the results that his report was flawed.
Media bias exists in Rather’s world, it just doesn’t include anything he did in his long career at CBS.
Rather, whose acrimonious split from CBS resulted in a suit against the network, showed that he is still holding a grudge when he told the audience that CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves had tried to “sleaze up” the news and watched ratings plummet as a result.
That may come as a surprise to his immediate successor Bob Schieffer who brought a measure of respectability and stability to the program after the Bush National Guard fiasco cast doubt on the entire news operation. While Schieffer’s ratings weren’t stellar they actually improved to the point that the program was nipping at the heels of ABC’s World News program. Hardly a “sleazing up” or ratings downfall as Rather noted. Yes the ratings have dropped under Katie Couric, even touching a ten-year low last summer, but sleazy it isn’t. Biased yes but sleazy no.
If Rather taught the students anything about journalism that evening it was that he is a bitter old man who can’t let go of the past and that accuracy doesn’t matter.