Don’t let the door hit you

I just can’t get it up over Dan Rather’s departure from CBS. Eat the Press links to those who can.

I don’t think that getting rid of him was a holy cause or necessary event for journalism or politics. But I also never liked him as an anchor. I’ve said before that the TV column I regret not getting around to writing was one arguing that Rather was the dumbest anchor alive. Mind you, dumb people can often make good reporters. Well, in this case, dumb may be the wrong word. Clueless? Socially disconnected? Goofy? I’ve seen people who’d fit those descriptions make great reporters because they will ask any question because they don’t know any better. It’s the let-Mikey-try-it school of journalism. So Rather’s oddness — the self-absorbed streak that makes him go see Good Night and Good Luck a half-dozen times and then admit it to the New York Times — served him well on the beat but not behind the desk. He came off as pompous, and so he tried to overcompensate with overdoses of corny downhomeisms. I never could stand watching him. And I know it’s heresy but I also thought Walter Cronkite was also pompous. Maybe that’s Murrow’s real legacy. These guys believed the Tiffany thing; they thought they were golden. But in the end, they merely did out loud what you (I hope) are doing quietly now: Reading.

  • Stephen_M

    Yup. I’m reading.
    In fact I just read your review of “Good Night, and Good Luck”.

    I wonder what that review might look like minus the Venona filter.

  • Dumb or not, you can’t excuse the way CBS let him twist in the wind while pretending to value his services. They canned 60 Minutes II, pushed him onto the Sunday edition, and then pushed him off when Katie came on board. Bilateral coexistance was not an option. This magazine show ain’t big enough for the two of them. If CBS wanted him gone, why didn’t the suits just have the “courage” to ask him to resign?

  • When newsreaders became “anchors” they also became imbued with mystical powers of gravitas and wisdom. This was probably part of an effort to raise the visibility of dry evening news programs by connecting them to a personality.

    Now that we have an official ditz in the role, perhaps people will see how stupid the whole thing has been.

    One could have an off screen anouncer saying “for our next story we go to XXX” and dispense with the whole anchor nonsense. Try listening to the BBC world news at the top of the hour to see how smoothly it works.

  • Kendrick

    [“…perhaps people will see how stupid the whole thing has been.

    One could have an off screen announcer saying “for our next story we go to XXX” and dispense with the whole anchor nonsense..”]


    Yes, quite ‘stupid’, inefficient …almost farce.

    Perhaps three-minutes of substantive news in a 30-minute long network news ‘program’.

    And who needs either the name or TV image of network reporter XXX to tell viewers a “story” ??

    Do you know the name of the person who baked your bread … or designed your car ?
    Why do news-consumers need a personal, by-name connection with any TV ‘reporter’ or news-reader ?

    No wonder the internet is booming as an efficient news medium.

  • I was never a big “anchor” fan, but during the 2000 presidential election coverage Dan Rather lost me forever. His comments weren’t even clever they were just desparate. I saved the email my husband sent me the next day – here are some gems:

    “Bush has run through Dixie like a big wheel through a cotton field.”

    “This will have the people in Austin standing up like they got stuck
    with hat pins.” (On the recantation of Florida results.)

    “I think you would likelier see a hippopotamus run through this room
    than see George Bush appoint Ralph Nader to the Cabinet.”

  • The Rather “problems” go back a good measure. The forever-in-third-place Evening News was the fountainhead, the 60-II embarrassment merely another confirmation of the hubris at work. Still, 44 years of loyalty and service should in the least afford one a proper exit with grace. The entire news shop became estranged on November 10, 2004 when the desk made the bad call of dumping the end of CSI: NY to flash Arafat’s passing when a screen crawl would have done the job. CBS’ new news chief managed this poorly, assisted, perhaps, by the failure of Dan and his agent to fully appreciate his/their tenuous bargaining position and the total loss of cache with those that matter.

  • sam

    David M, I can certainly appreciate that Rather’s 44-year tenure counts for something, but a stunt in anyindustry like his phony ambush story on GWB’s National Guard service will ruin years of a career and reputation. I learned my news basics at the Newark Star-Ledger in the early 70s, and if any of our reporters had pulled such a stunt, Mort Pye or Andy Stasiuk, editor-in-chief and ME, respectively, would have personnally kicked their butt down the stairs and out into the street. This wasn’t Rather’s only offense, just his worst and the one he was finally called on. I have little pity for the guy. His sacking, for cause, was long overdue, except that management was just as arrogant and unfair as he was.

  • Sam

    I cut my teeth as a news reporter. The old school city desk rule applied: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” What Rather did or did not do including his role as “reader” on the guard package did cost him. He lost his job on EN and with that lost any possible chance of being retained. imho, the guard incident, nor any cumulative megolomania, does not rise to sanction the brutally cold nature of his cashier provided his stature and 44 years of service. While I may agree he was deserving of termination, I continue to believe the company could have and should have been far more creative in their solution. Thanks to Jeff for use of the hall.

  • My own loving farewell tribute.