In 1979 I read a book about a good ole boy Texan who goes to the big city and shows the city slickers how it's done. Through hard work, bravery and horse sense, he wins the day and becomes a hero.
The book, "The Camera Never Blinks," was the story of Dan Rather, who rose from east Texas as a newscaster, braving hurricanes to get his story. He finally hit the big time with his coverage of John Kennedy's assassination in 1963. He moved up to the networks and New York City, where he eventually replaced Walter Cronkite as the anchor on the CBS Evening News.
I was 21 when I read Rather's story, and remembered seeing him on TV covering Vietnam. I hadn't realized he was from Texas until I read his book, and I was proud on two counts: 1) He earned his position with the networks, and 2) He was a Texan.
Imagine my chagrin 25 years later when I'm rooting for him to be fired, and am convinced that he represents everything wrong with what is commonly called "the mainstream media."
The report from the internal investigation into CBS News and the so-called "Memogate" scandal came out today, and four people lost their jobs. Dan Rather was not one of them. The man who was out front, who took over the position of trust from "Uncle Walter," who reportedly has nearly ultimate power in his division, came out clean as a whistle...at least as far as the report is concerned.
It is complete blind arrogance on the part of CBS for them to think that anyone can have any doubt that the report on 60 Minutes was politically motivated. A scandal (backed by hard evidence!) that shows (beyond a doubt!) that George W. Bush shirked his responsibilities in the Air National Guard -- seven weeks before the election! I'm flabbergasted at their hubris. OF COURSE IT WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. To deny something so obvious is nearly as big a crime as the original report. What kind of contempt for other people does it take to try to pass a story like that off as the truth?
There is a trust that Americans place -- warranted or not -- in the major media. Network news, major newspapers, and the wire services have traditionally presented themselves as impartial, reporting the truth. Jack Webb used to say "Just the facts, ma'am." That's what the major media want us to believe they present to us. The truth is that they've betrayed that trust.
That's why it hurts to render judgment on Dan Rather. Despite my initial admiration, he betrayed me; he betrayed us, and I watch what's happening to him with grim satisfaction. His fall from grace is Shakespearean in scope; his reputation is in a shambles. The only compatible scenario is what happened to Richard Nixon. Nixon's abuse of his position has been documented for a generation, and he has long been held up as the ultimate example of corrupting power. It's ironic that his major nemesis in the media, Dan Rather, is experiencing the same fate. The truth caught up to him, and it crushed him beneath its wheels.
Let's hope that for justice's sake Rather's name is uttered with Nixonian scorn 25 years from now.