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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Rather fell short of journalism greats

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

I won't miss Dan Rather. The infamous talking head of CBS news steps down this week from the anchor desk that, quite frankly, he has held far too long. He'll leave a legacy, that's for sure. But I suspect history won't be so kind to Rather and there's not a darned thing he can do about it now.

Rather rose to prominence as a local reporter in Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated. No one better serves as an example of being in the right place at the right time.

Rather's departure will always be tied to the "Memogate" scandal of his beloved network which proved to be a fabrication. Rather obviously was betting the attack on the President would tilt the tables toward John Kerry but, in the end, it may have actually helped to re-elect President Bush. But Rather's problems most certainly didn't start with "Memogate." He has injected his liberal-leanings into the nightly news for years and years.

Above all else, Dan Rather is absorbed with Dan Rather. His ego is evident and his attempt to portray himself as some Midwestern "everyman" falls flat. In short, Dan Rather always seems to believe he was bigger than the news he was reporting. And his awkward personality undermined his ego at every turn.

Rather was not single-handedly responsible for the decline in the impact and importance of the network news. But he was a substantial factor in that decline. His fall from grace has been in the works actually for years. His broadcast is consistently near the bottom of the network heap. But his years of control at CBS was enough to keep him in the hot seat long after his sun had set.

Rather had hoped to join the ranks of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite in the lofty perch of national media. To say he fell short would be an understatement. And in a number of ways, his obvious bias gave birth to conservative networks like Fox news. Rather was so biased that even the casual observer could see him coming from a mile away.

Rather will pop up from time to time in the months and perhaps years ahead. But he will forever wear the badge of someone who got caught cheating. That label may not be appropriate in all instances but it does seem to fit Dapper Dan fairly well.

People don't mind a little ego with their news. But Rather long ago decided that it was the messenger not the message that was important. And time, long ago, proved him wrong.

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