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Posted by on Jan 31, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

The Strange Case Of Dan Rather

Cbslitter_3 The extent to which Dan Rather has sandbagged his own career as it draws to a close is never more evident than in a New York piece, Black Days At Black Rock.

We were first alerted to this article via an email from, the news site that started scrutinizing Rather and news a few years ago. (They have a great overall synopsis of this article with readers’ comments). What’s striking is that in the end future generations will be looking at articles like this for their journalism projects or research — and it’s evident more than ever how tarnished Rather’s (and CBS’s) legacy now is.

Some key quotes:

–When CBS News President  Andrew Heyward talks to staffers after he has fired some bigwigs over the 60 Minutes Memogate fiasco staffers sense CYO, bigtime:

“I’m here to put a human face on today’s sad events,� the CBS News president said solemnly.

“Then why didn’t you get a human being to come over here and do it?� one producer was heard to mutter. Many in the room felt Heyward’s words rang particularly hollow, given that he had not demonstrated any particular humanity by sacrificing the careers of his trusted lieutenants and friends, while managing to preserve his own. When Heyward stopped speaking, he was met with stony silence.

–CBS Staffers feeling The Elite of their organization live on despite their mistakes:

In the aftermath of that day’s traumatic events, there remains a strong sentiment among many CBS News insiders that the punishments don’t fit the crimes—and that those most responsible have gotten off far too lightly. Much internal anger has been directed at Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS and co-CEO of its parent company, Viacom. It was Moonves, after all, who spared Heyward from being fired and instead removed West, Howard, Murphy, and the story’s producer, Mary Mapes, from their jobs. And now Moonves is personally overseeing the news division’s makeover of its last-place CBS Evening News, which will be without a permanent anchor at 6:30 P.M. on Thursday, March 10, for the first time since CBS News began a nightly fifteen-minute newscast in 1948.

–A paragraph about Rather that will be quoted for years by his die-hard enemies and anyone who does a profile on him:

Rather knew full well the story’s implications for the presidential election then only two months away. The anchorman’s experience at going after sitting presidents is well known, as is his dogged pursuit of tough assignments. But Rather’s reputation as a Bush hater, true or not, has allowed journalists to wonder whether Rather helped rush the story on the air partly for political reasons. “Elections have consequences,� the anchorman had been heard to mutter around the CBS News hallways last year, an apparent reference to his feelings about the crucial importance of replacing Bush this past November.

–Yet MORE indications that Rather seemingly forgot the most basic training journalism students receive and sacrificed solid confirmation to get a story first:

One fascinating, largely overlooked paragraph in the commission’s report strongly supports the theory that Rather actively pushed the story through without adequate concern for its factual basis. While Rather told the commission that he warned Heyward of the story’s “radioactive� nature, Heyward denied to the commission that Rather ever said such a thing. Indeed, Heyward—once Rather’s executive producer at the Evening News—told the panel that when he warned Rather, the weekend before the story aired, to make certain the documents were real, Rather replied simply: “Of course.� In a later conversation, Heyward recalled Rather’s saying he did not want to “lose the exclusive.� Heyward recalled getting the impression from Rather that they were trying to beat another news outlet to the “scoop.�

–And then this quote which suggests Dan Rather may have learned something from his nemesis the late President Richard Nixon about hunkering down no matter what:

“Should Dan resign for his part in this story? Yes,� says one CBS News executive. “Will he? No. It’s just not his style.�

CBS’s failure is not forcing him out, given his clear journalistic sins. The fact you see a quote like this shows that the inmates are running the asylum (not meant literally, of course…).

But, then, if CBS goes through with its plans to cancel Rather’s 60 Minutes Wednesday Show, it’ll represent nearly the same thing — cushioned within a face-saving exit for the red-faced network. How can viewers live without Dan? If you look at the ratings, apparently quite easily….

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