Dan Rather: American journalism is in trouble
Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather is worried about the future of his profession.
The increasingly biased media will threaten the U.S. in Rather said at a speech here Jan. 24 as part of a Kennedy Political Union event.
“A free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” he said.
Rather believes today’s correspondents give more lip service and less facts to support their stories.
Rather also said viewers should know that when they are watching shows like “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” — who Rather said he respects — and “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” they are getting opinion, not news.
“I still prefer to say ‘the press,’ where news in concerned, it refers to news that has this constitutional mission at its core content,” he said. “Some of [the media] is informative, some of it even looks and sounds like news, but the underlying impetus of the media is to generate profit.”
After Rather left CBS news, he believes CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves tried “sleazing up” the program and ratings plummeted as a result.
“We can’t let journalism sacrifice itself on the altar of entertainment,” Rather said.
Students asked Rather if the recent Wikileaks controversy counts a legitimate journalism.
Rather said he was sure foreign intelligence agencies were not surprised by what came out of the leaks, but raw data cannot be confused with real reporting.
But the New York Times and The Guardian should be commended for sifting through the information and confirming what was true, he said.
Despite the “corporatization, politization and trivialization of the news,” Rather encouraged aspiring reporters to keep going.
“What I would say to young journalists is dither not, worry not, learn how to do it, you’ll find a way,” he said. “Writing is the bedrock of the craft, learn to write, commit yourself to a lifetime of ever improving as a writer and you have to have a passion to do it which is necessary in journalism.”
But Rather also said reporting isn’t always that simple.
“If you’re going to be a journalist worthy of the name, you’d better take the attitude ‘if you’re looking for a friend, then get a dog.’ Because if you do this job the way you’re supposed to do it, there’s always going to be someone trying to bring you down and they’ll bring you down,” he said. “But if you have a passion for doing, if you burn with a white, hot flame for doing it, that doesn’t matter as much as what you see as your mission in life which is getting to as close to the truth as you can.”