Rather wants “to do news that matters.”

I watched Larry King’s interview with Dan Rather while I was in Dallas, and this part of the exchange stayed with me:

There came a time when I realized…That we were working for not CBS and not CBS news. We were working for Viacom News, which was a whole different thing…

…with different interests, different traditions. And more lately, and they have a right to do this, they indicated they want to go in a different direction. The very top management has said they want, I think this is a paraphrase of a quote, they want to break with the past. They want to be done with the past and build something new. And I’ll be interested to see what that something new is.

But…I want to do news that matters. And so much of news these days, and this is not directed at CBS and I include myself as one who from time to time, maybe more than time to time, but it’s so driven by ratings, so driven by demographics, so driven by, we used to be told “stockholder value.” It’s driven by things other than the public interest. I want to do news that’s fair and accurate, do it with integrity and I want to do it in the public interest, and I now have an opportunity to do that at HD Net.

This is Dan Rather’s public spin, the fundamental positioning of himself for the future. The above had nothing to do with his departure from CBS News, and the network’s wishes to “go in a different direction” isn’t a suggestion that it won’t include “news that matters.” If Dan wants to do that kind of news — and Mark Cuban’s HD Net is making that possible — then the statement “I want to do news that matters” clearly implies that at CBS News he wasn’t, and that’s just a self-serving positioning statement.

This is spin and nothing more; it’s Dan’s way of twisting his departure from CBS into an unrighteous act, a jihad against the high priest of 20th century journalism. He’s a victim of “Viacom News” and nothing else. This is simply false.

For all his experience and credentials, Dan Rather was a polarizing evening news anchor and was the perfect foil for the right, because historical facts didn’t support his claims of objectivity or lack of bias. Rathergate was simply the last straw, and I’d rather (I know) see him now do news with a perspective than to claim that his news is fair, accurate and done with integrity.

This interview — and others he’s doing to promote his new gig — suggest that Dan Rather has learned nothing from his experiences during the last two years, and that’s a real shame.

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