More than just Dan Rather is retiring

Dan Rather’s accelerated retirement ought to send a chill down the spine of everyone in the television news industry — from the people who shoot and tell the stories, to the producers and support staff who put programs together on-the-fly, to the anchors who act as a conduit for the news department’s work, and especially to management. There needs to be an awakening to the reality that this is no game we play. Real lives involving real people are at stake day-in-and-day-out, and we really do answer to someone beyond our own conscience. Those people are following what we do closely, and they’re armed with their own communications infrastructure.

Dan Rather — a man with a brilliant career — one of the top television journalists of modern times — has learned the lesson and is doing the right thing by stepping down in the wake of the pre-election fiasco with the forged documents.

With Tom Brokaw’s departure and now Mr. Rather’s “retirement,” we are witnessing the end of broadcast network news as we know it. These two guys were among the final links in the chain that held everything together for the networks, who are confronted with extreme competitive pressure from cable networks — people who do the job 24/7. The nightly network news has three legs in the tar pit, and it ain’t coming back out.

The biggest lesson for those of us left behind is that journalism is rapidly evolving into something much bigger and more potent that it ever was in the Walter Lippmann “professional” model. Citizen journalism — today in the form of bloggers but tomorrow in many other forms — has put the power of the free press back in the people’s hands, where it all began centuries ago. There are going to be lawsuits galore in the years ahead, I predict, as we sort all of this out, because lawyers will get their hands into the movement sooner or later. And the status quo — including the rest of the Dan Rathers of the world — won’t go down without a fight. The First Amendment will be tested as never before, but in the end, it will win.

It’s a scary time for people in television news, because the blue smoke and mirrors has been revealed for what it is. People figured it out long before Sharon Reed took her clothes off in Cleveland.


  1. William Lefkovics says

    The forged document fiasco is not the reason for Dan Rather stepping down from his news anchor position. His post-election resignation was agreed upon over the summer.

    News, and how people attain their information/misinformation will continue to evolve, as you said.

  2. Nixon resigned to write his memoirs.

  3. oldhoustonian says

    A man with a brilliant career…
    Houston Tv viewers in the ’50s recall Mr. Rather as a pleasant fellow of unremarkable gift who read the copy put in front of him.He caught the fancy of LBJ and moved on.

  4. Tom Smithee says

    Long live Fox News!!!!

  5. Alan Bixby says

    American TV viewers of recent decades recall Mr. Rather as a fellow of Nixonian awkwardness who relentlessly slanted the copy he put in front of himself until he caught the ire of a new and vocal power base and was forced to move out.

  6. craig bodeker says

    …a brilliant carreer!
    In the recent comedy “Team America World Police”, a lot was made of the fact that some people can use their “ACTING” to make others feel a certain way. It’s laughable to compare real people’s careers to what these ”actors” do. They’re selected for the semetry of their heads and their“duties” include reading copy they didn’t write and applying the matching facial expression and tone as they plod along,using their “acting” to fool us into thinking they have any idea what they’re talking about. Good riddance!

  7. If Rather’s resignation wasn’t related to the forged memo, what else explains his leaving with two years remaining in his contract with CBS?

  8. Mr Rather’s retirement has nothing to do with the forged memoes? It strikes me that Mr Rather’s retirement is optional in the same sense that a man walking the plank opts to get wet.

  9. “His post-election resignation was agreed upon over the summer.” I’d have to see a paperwork trail before I’ll believe that.

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