My Take on “Rather Outspoken” by Dan Rather

Dan Rather’s book “Rather Outspoken” was especially interesting to me, having met with him personally a few times, and having followed his career with CBS News.

Just as he did, I always thought of CBS News back in the old days as being the gold standard of broadcast journalism.  We both had great respect for the news organization that Edward R. Murrow built starting during  World War II.

Murrow’s gutsy reporting got too much for CBS head Bill Paley and he was forced out, but others, people  like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather continued that tradition, and were backed at crucial times such as the Watergate scandal by CBS President Frank Stanton and Paley.

But, Rather now says that changed and the network decided not to continue in  the CBS News Murrow and Cronkite tradition, opting to trend toward entertainment, and forcing him out in the process.  He also says the switch didn’t work, ratings fell, and now the network has decided to, fortunately, go back to practicing serious journalism.

Meanwhile, though 80 years old, he continues to do weekly news documentaries for the HDNet. And, as the flap of the book says, he would like to see more investigative journalism programs like his, “even in the face of corporatization, politization, and trivialization of the news”.

The flap also says, “Dan Rather also makes an eloquent case for the critical importance of a free and independent press as a check on political power, and its responsibility to be the voice of the people, to force government to be fair, reasonable, and democratic.” Amen.

He spends a lot of time in the book defending the report about former President George W. Bush’s alleged disobeying a direct order, and either going AWOL or being a deserter while in the Texas Air National Guard. That was the story that caused the network to force him out, he says. To this day, he maintains the report was correct.  Not everyone agrees.

All in all, the book was a page-turner for me.  He made a lot of enemies during his tenure at CBS News,  and he admits that and thinks making people angry is going to happen when investigative reporters do their jobs.  But, the fact is, he was and still is a courageous reporter, and it paid off for him for a long time. And he’s still at it.

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