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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Good Night, Dan

Dan Rather has had an enviable career in journalism. Dan Rather broke the Kennedy Assassination. He has interviewed some of the most important people on the planet over the last thirty year. He is dedicated, engaging, smart, and even likable. But all the accolades and respect (even by me and I know he is liberal) earned by Mr. Rather can be thrown out of the window because of the last series of events that took place fifty days before a Presidential election.

Everyone by now knows what this story is about, no need to dredge up its particulars. But, there are two issues with CBS Memo-Gate that will define Rather’s career and the praxis of journalism. First, the memos detailing President Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard were patently false. That is an irrefutable fact. All the spinning by the media can’t change this. The second issue revolves around the hubris and criminality of such claims and the lack of standards applied to such an earth shattering revelation that a sitting President lied about his service to this country (has anyone at CBS been subpoenaed for libel and slander?)

Why this is so disturbing is that once discovered as false, no admission of deceit was foisted upon the progenitor of this smear campaign against President Bush and his complicitous accomplices at CBS until the memos received the basic scrutiny that should have occurred before they were made public by Rather, et al. How could any journalist, and one with years of experience like Rather, allow these unsubstantiated claims to go public? The most logical conclusion is that Rather and the staff at CBS intended to sway the outcome of a Presidential election by the mere mention of impropriety. What other motivation could be discerned? None. Why? If, and only if, these documents were put under the same kind of Journalism 101 microscope as other such weighty revelations as Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, they would never have seen the light of prime time television.

Memo-Gate was inevitable. The system of story selection, editing, writing, investigation, accuracy and accountability in the big three networks, and CBS in particular, for years has engendered a perspective of elitism that overtly and covertly sneers at the those that dare criticize what comes on the air for twenty-two minutes, five days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Other Blogs are celebrating the departure of Dan Rather. I am not. As a student of journalism in college, the tenets of impartiality, fact-finding, and judgment were drilled into us incessantly by professors and field professionals, left and right. Memo-Gate is the highest violations of these axioms. If anything good can come from this, it’s that the ability to believe what comes from CBS and the rest of the mainstream media is questioned as credible from now and ever after.

Good Night Dan. Let’s See What’s On FOX!

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