Dear Dan

Dear Dan

: Jay Rosen writes a letter to Dan Rather. Maybe, coming from a respected journalism professor, Rather might actually read it. Oh, no, that’s right: It comes from a blogger. Drat. Well, if he did read it, he’d get damned good advice from Jay, who says Rather should hire a blogger to not only write — putting up the full text of interviews, as Jay suggested earlier — but also read, letting Rather know what is being said about him and his stories so he can actually improve his reporting. Jay begins:

Dear Dan Rather: “Lest anyone have any doubt,” you said in your statement yesterday, “I have read the report, I take it seriously, and I shall keep its lessons well in mind.”

I still have my doubts. Perhaps these would be lessened if, for example, you had bothered to spell out which lessons you saw for yourself, and for CBS News in the review panel’s report.

* Was it the lesson about the deadly consequences of dismissing criticism because you think you know the motivations of the critics?

* Was the lesson that a prudent journalist ought to fear and respect the fact-checking powers of the Internet?

* Or was it that by stretching yourself thin you had stretched thin the credibility of the very network you thought you were serving by taking so many assignments?

* Maybe the lesson is not to apologize when you think you did nothing wrong.

Jay caught on the same head-scratching quote from new/old CBS truth czarina Linda Mason that made me harumph yesterday:

The blogger is a feedback loop and fail safe device. Part of what she does is monitor the online world for what is being said about Dan Rather and his reporting. Such a person, well connected to the discussion, would have been extremely valuable to you during the twelve-day period, Sep. 8-20, 2004. After six months of your blog, statements like this from Linda Mason, your new vice president for standards:

“Dan does think he’s constantly attacked. If we backed off every story that was criticized, we wouldn’t be doing any stories.”

would be rendered inoperative by reason of being inane.

And then comes the knockdown punch:

So I kind of resent your attitude toward your numerous critics who operate their own self-published sites on the Web. They were being more accurate than you were, much of the time.