Rather may blog after leaving CBS

Last night I had a 5-minute talk with Dan Rather, former CBS News anchor and managing editor. We covered topics that weren’t covered in the 1.5 hour interview with Orville Schell. Dan Farber of CNET took a picture of us talking.

Of course what I wanted to talk about is Rather becoming a blogger. He said that his employer discourages it. I was surprised, more news organizations are encouraging their reporters to blog, it makes economic sense to do so. I thought that CBS especially would be thinking this way because they were so rocked by bloggers in 2004. He said that large companies like to control what’s said about them, and that CBS is part of a large company (Viacom).

But he added something that was surprising, that I’ve not heard elsewhere — he may leave CBS, and if he does, may start blogging. I offered my help and advice if he goes that route, he said he’d like that.

Rather could be a great blogger

I think Rather could be a great blogger. He’s a thoughtful, considerate person, who thinks about stuff. He has strong opinions about what should be covered by the news, about the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, and he certainly has experienced the power of blogging personally, and has now had time to reflect. These are qualities of the blogosphere, although the louder and more sensational voices of course tend to be heard more by the MSM than the thoughtful ones. I don’t doubt that Rather would be listened to.

Given his broadcast presence it might make more sense to podcast, and to do interviews with other people. I can tell you for sure, I’d love to do a series of podcasts with him. I kept thinking about that as I listened to the on-stage interview. There are so many challenging ways to approach his story, places to go with the events that don’t lead to the same tired places that mainstream news people always go to. Lessons not only for the old news medium, but for the new. His career has gone from the Vietnam War to Iraq; from the political activism of the 60s, to the activism of the blogosphere. His point of view is an inherently interesting one.

What if CBS News had decided to blog…

…or had sought the diversity of the blogosphere to look at the National Guard story from angles other than the right-wing bloggers (who I have met and have respect for, btw). What if, in addition to being the lightning rod for this event, they had also covered it, brought the blogosphere onto their nightly broadcast in 2004, in the last days of the campaign.

Had they embraced the controversy instead of trying to deflect it, just followed the story like any reporter could have done, it all could have come out very differently. They were in a position to learn the power of the blogosphere in ways that weren’t available to NBC, ABC and CNN.

Understandably, they missed the opportunity. And, equally important, the focus of the story might have included whether or not the President took his national service responsibility seriously at the time of the Vietnam War. This angle, the important one, got lost, as the Republican bloggers took control of the story.

Edward R Murrow

At one point in the interview Rather choked up and was on the verge of tears, talking about Edward R Murrow, the first great television newsman. Rather said that his accomplishments had never been equaled, perhaps so, but the take-down of Rather and CBS News in 2004 seem comparable to the CBS News take-down of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954.

We sympathize with Rather, and despise McCarthy, but the similarity is that both expressed the power of a new medium coming in, and an old one going out. I doubt if Rather would agree with this at first, but I’d like to ask the question again a few years after he started blogging, after he’s seen the power from the other side.

A classic mainstream journalist with the time and perspective to learn blogging could be a real pivotal person, and Dan Rather has shown before that he has the courage to make history; maybe he can do it again.

Viacom

I blogged as the voice of Harvard Law School for a couple of years. It was nothing like my main blog, Scripting News, where I blog in my own voice. If a venerable and stodgy institution like Harvard can do it, why can’t CBS News? Maybe this is a clue that the downward spiral of MSM isn’t necessary, it may be self-inflicted.

38 responses to this post.

  1. [...] Essay: Rather may blog after leaving CBS.  [...]

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  2. Dave, very good read. While I’m not fond of Mr. Rather myself I do agree 100% with you that he would bring a whole new perspective to blogging.

    With his experience, firm opinions, professional approach, and belief in what he does would indeed make Mr. Rather a pivotal blogger.

    The incident you cite, is one of the reasons Mr. Rather is not my favorite newsperson, however, I would be interested in reading his blog to be able to really understand his viewpoint. Large corporate ‘Network’ news is as Mr. Rather points out, “controlled”, but I believe a true professional such as Mr. Rather would be able to finally report information in a much more honest and direct way.

    My suggestion to Mr. Rather if he persues blogging is to simply go back to the reasons you got into journalism in the first place. Tell your stories, I’m sure there are many, and tell your perspective – true, unfiltered, unedited.

    You’re in control.

    Reply

  3. [...] Dave Winer has a great post about an interview with Dan Rather.  In it Mr. Rather talks briefly about blogging.  I really recommend reading the article. Blogging, Dan Rather [...]

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  4. Well, if Henry Blodget can do it …

    There are always second acts in blogging.

    But 100% agreed. If they’d embraced the blog criticism and controversy, the results would have been very different, and certainly more interesting than just a “liberal” scalp for the war-bloggers.

    Reply

  5. I don’t think that he would be a great blogger. Now he’d be a great podcaster! :-)

    I love the photo of you and Steve mentoring Dan on blogging. Great stuff

    Reply

  6. [...] Bonus link: Dave Winer writes about his brief chat with Rather about blogging if he were to leave CBS and offers some advice. 7 Comments | Blog This | E-mail This | Print This | Permalink [...]

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  7. Posted by Smug Canadian on April 26, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Dude, have you ever *seen* the fake memoes that Rather peddled on 60 Minutes and still maintains are real? He says these people who exposed this high-school grade doctor’s note forgery have an “ideological agenda”.

    I know you hate Bush like Rather does, but seriously – take a look at those memoes. Quite embarassing to maintain those are real, and that kind of nonsense just won’t fly in blog-land, except with people like you who will simply believe any Bush-bashing on principle.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Twok on April 26, 2006 at 9:34 am

    That would really be funny. Rather could blog about how he actually hates Walter Cronkite.

    Blogging really outs phonies. Here is a great way to expose anti-Americanism, for example.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Dan Collins on April 26, 2006 at 9:37 am

    Would Mary Mapes be part of his team?

    Reply

  10. Posted by Bob on April 26, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Rather a blogger…. please !

    This guy is so full of shit and lies it’ll be a riot to watch the pajama media eat him alive.

    He got away with murder on CBS as well as by the MSM, and the blog world would never give him that cover. The only way his little ego could take “the real world” is the way most left leaning blogs work… filtering out anyone who doesn’t buy the bull shit. Then his blog would look like DU or Kos Kids…. pure entertainment while the moonbats circle the wagons !

    Rather should just go away…. or at least he could team up with O.J. Simpson. Maybe between the 2 of them they could find those memos and Nicoles murderer.

    Reply

  11. I agree with Dave, provided that Mr. Rather would lend himself out to be a sort of public ombudsman for the main stream media.

    I think he’s had enough experience at both side of both the press and blogging blade that with this approach, he couuld grather a rather large audience from both sides of the political spectrum.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Jason O. on April 26, 2006 at 10:20 am

    I’d bookmark it for no other reason than to hear Rather become increasingly extreme after he was unbounded from CBS, a la Cronkite.

    That, and hopefully he’d throw in some colloquialisms like: “‘Don’t taunt the alligator until after you’ve crossed the creek.’”

    Reply

  13. Posted by Glenn Bowen on April 26, 2006 at 10:35 am

    His superiors stretched what should have been a violent two-minute firing into several months, now he wants to invade my internet.

    He should look in the mirror. He’s nude.

    Reply

  14. Great! Mary Mapes and Josh Howard could be his co-bloggers.

    Let’s get the band back together!

    Someone send him a memo on this idea.

    Reply

  15. Oops, bad choice of words. What I meant to say is let’s type something up… I mean, let’s fax him something from Kinko’s… oops… ummmm.. let’s help Dan guard the nation.. ooh that’s not good… geez, now I’m as embarassed as a shaved grizzly at a kids’ birthday party.

    Reply

  16. [...] Dave Winer interviews Dan Rather and reports that he may blog. He says CBS discourages that now. [...]

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  17. Posted by thirdfinger on April 26, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    I hope he’s getting pajamas that match his tinfoil hat. This guys credibility is shot, finis, kaput, muy mal. He has a high level Hubris problem and I don’t think he will be able to take the heat that goes with blogging. Hell he couldn’t take the heat about the ‘memos’.

    Just One More Thing: Tell me Kenneth, what is the frequency?

    Reply

  18. I don’t think that Mr. Rather would do well in the face of the relentless and near-instant fact-checking, fisking, and double-guessing that is the bread and butter of the blogosphere.

    He is accustomed to sitting on high and proclaiming truth to an accepting (and generally mute) audience; which is why he was so easily slammed by the forged memo scandal. He’s a good reporter if he can get past his own strong biases, but I don’t think he would be able to wrap his brain around the fact that blogging is the polar opposite of being surrounded by a bunch of “yes men”.

    It would be interesting to see. Perhaps I’m wrong; but I suspect not.

    Reply

  19. Posted by steven on April 26, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    I was there last night in Berkeley to hear Rather speak. And one thing I’d like to note is how many times Rather mentioned the word “fear” in regards to broadcasting via the MSM. I don’t downplay his accomplishments working within that medium and obviously being forced to reconcile public and private interests at all. He is clearly an intelligent and passionate journalist with, as he himself continually mentioned, a strong sense of serving the public. I don’t doubt that.

    Nevertheless, I think he would be a rather* bogus blogger. For one, I think he’s a relic of the broadcast era that has and will continue to disintegrate (or morph), so I think his sudden adoption of the new medium that, as many have said, lead to his downfall would seem calculated and disingenuous–two characteristics which completely contradict the ethos of “good blogging.”

    The other issue is simply that his career is at the tail end, not its beginning and certainly not its apex. I believe that looking ahead, we need to turn to younger journalists of this era and generation, as they are the ones whose expectations, habits and demands are rapidly changing the way we process our media.

    *pun intended

    Reply

  20. [T]he take-down of Rather and CBS News in 2004 seem comparable to the CBS News take-down of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954.

    We sympathize with Rather, and despise McCarthy…

    I understand the almost cannonical nature of McCarthy-hate amongst those who live in the media world, but one has to admit that looking beyond his self-serving showboating and hyperbole the old Tailgunner’s facts have proven to be more accurate vis-a-vis Communist infiltration than Mr. Rather’s have vis-a-vis TANG. I would hate to think I lived in a world where the charm of a Rather buys sympathy for pushing fabrications while the ham-handedness of a McCarthy fosters derision for presenting basically factual information. But then again, as a realist, I can do nothing other.

    Reply

  21. Dave, CBS is blogging, check out Public Eye which does much of what your commenters suggest.

    Reply

  22. [...] So says one blogger who recently interviewed him. [...]

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  23. Posted by penny on April 26, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Rather, blogging? Wouldn’t that take creativity, talent, humor and transparency?

    Please. That pathetic ex-anchor, as original as the local weatheman sans the pathos, hasn’t a future in blogging by any measure.

    Image if one of the little people challenged him on his blog?…..

    “At one point in the interview Rather choked up and was on the verge of tears”……

    Bingo.

    Reply

  24. Dan Rather would be a great addition to the blog community.

    Now that he’s free from the menacing gaze of Les Moonves, he can report what he knows — like Bush going AWOL in Guard and if the rightwingers go ape-shit, well, tough patootee.

    Anyone know when his launch date happens to be?

    Reply

  25. Posted by Andy C on April 26, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    What’s the (blogging) frequency, Kenneth ?

    Reply

  26. [...] UPDATE: Typo corrections and link. [...]

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  27. Dan Rather: Blogger(?)

    Via Dave’s WordPress Blog (BTW, that’s the name I wanted to use for this blog, but I couldn’t because it was already taken. Plus, my name isn’t Dave, so that might have caused some confusion. And I’m not on WordPress

    Reply

  28. Posted by penny on April 26, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    CBS is blogging

    If you want to call their santizied and self-promoting dribble blogging.

    The comments are pathetically paltry and appear screened.

    But, then again, maybe, Dan with tears on his keyboard could liven it up for them.

    Reply

  29. I wonder what “Ratherisms” will pop up on a blog.
    –”They’re pinging faster than an armadillo on concrete”
    –”Track-back-tick-tight”
    –”If a frog had RSS, he’d carry a handgun”
    –”This blog is hotter than a rained-on rooster.”

    Courage…

    Chris

    Reply

  30. “We sympathize with Rather, and despise McCarthy”

    That’s odd. I sympathize with McCarthy (who was trying to get Communist spies working to destroy America fired from sensitive gov’t positions) and despise Rather (who peddled forged documents in a brazen attempt to smear a sitting President and swing an election to the side he favored).

    All a matter of perspective I guess.

    Reply

  31. [...] I’ve got this from Dave Winer at Scripting News Annex (via Matt Sheffield at NewsBusters.org). It seems he spoke to Dan Rather last night and Dan told him that “he may leave CBS, and if he does, may start blogging.” I think Rather could be a great blogger. He’s a thoughtful, considerate person, who thinks about stuff. He has strong opinions about what should be covered by the news, about the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, and he certainly has experienced the power of blogging personally, and has now had time to reflect. These are qualities of the blogosphere, although the louder and more sensational voices of course tend to be heard more by the MSM than the thoughtful ones. I don’t doubt that Rather would be listened to. [...]

    Reply

  32. [...] I’ve got this from Dave Winer at Scripting News Annex (via Matt Sheffield at NewsBusters.org). It seems he spoke to Dan Rather last night and Dan told him that “he may leave CBS, and if he does, may start blogging.” I think Rather could be a great blogger. He’s a thoughtful, considerate person, who thinks about stuff. He has strong opinions about what should be covered by the news, about the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, and he certainly has experienced the power of blogging personally, and has now had time to reflect. These are qualities of the blogosphere, although the louder and more sensational voices of course tend to be heard more by the MSM than the thoughtful ones. I don’t doubt that Rather would be listened to. [...]

    Reply

  33. Posted by Anon on April 27, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    Rather sucks!

    There – I made fun of him. Can I hang out with you cool people now? I want to be part of your group sooo baaaaad!!

    Reply

  34. I may be going against the grain of the previous comments, but I think Dapper Dan would be good for blogging as a medium. He has 40+ years as a reporter. He has donned his trenchcoat and has been on the ground at some of the world’s most significant events. He has a wealth of contacts. People like Matt Drudge, Christopher Hitchens and Markos Moulitsas may have paved the way; Nick Denton and Laurel Touby has showed the world that it could be a profitable enterprise; Dan Rather could make it “news”.

    Reply

  35. [...] Rather says he hopes his best work is still ahead of him. He was later interviewed by the first blogger Dave Winer of Scripting News. They discuss whether Rather will himself take up blogging the news. [...]

    Reply

  36. All the lyrics you want at http://www.lyricshunt.com

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