Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dan Rather's Work Continues

Dan Rather stepped down tonight as anchor of CBS News, dedicating his final moments to courage. This included a dedication "To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all." Most likely he meant reporters in dangerous areas whose lives are literally in danger. I can't help but wonder if he was also thinking of the lesser but real dangers faced by reporters, such as himself, who try to report the truth in Bush's America.

The full text of his final sign off were:

"We have shared a lot in the 24 years we've been meeting here each evening. And before I say good night this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it has been my honor to work over these years.

"And a deeply felt thank you to all of you, who have let us in to your homes night after night. It has been a privilege and one never taken lightly.

"Not long after I first came to the anchor chair I briefly signed off using the word 'courage.' I want to return to it now, in a different way, to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves closest to the events of September 11th.

"To our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in dangerous places. To those who have endured the tsunami, and to all who have suffered natural disasters and who must now find the will to rebuild.

"To the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship and failing health. To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all.

"And, to each of you, courage.

"For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night."

The words I'll always remember Dan Rather for date back to taking on Richard Nixon, up through trying to take on George Bush. He won the first battle, but lost the second--so far. Rather was correct on the facts about Bush, but that didn't excuse the use of unsubstantiated documents. Unfortunately he missed one major lesson of Watergate, that the coverup can be worse than the crime. In this case, Rather's failure to immediately resolve the problem overshadowed Bush's far worse misconduct in the National Guard.

While this mistake likely resulted in Rather stepping down a year earlier than planned as anchor, he plans to remain a reporter. This may be for the best. Rather, who has been in third place as anchor, may be an example of the Peter Principle. He was a far better reporter than anchorman. At this moment, an investigative reporter is what we need far more than another pretty face reading the news.

Rather recongnizes the dangers faced by the news media in Bushworld:

"I confess that I am concerned that we may be reaching the point where too many members of the press fear being labeled unpatriotic or partisan if they challenge the actions or decisions of political leaders of any persuasion.

"What the country doesn't need, particularly just now, is a press that's docile -- never mind obsequious or intimidated. I don't agree with those who say, 'Dan, it's already happened,' but I do recognize there's some danger."

It is unclear to what degree CBS will allow Rather to continue, but I hope that Dan Rather finds a way to dig up and report the truth, and maybe even win the final battle against George Bush, as he did against Richard Nixon.


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