You Shall Not Side With The Great Against The Powerless


Highlights from Dan Rather’s talk in the Big Tent, in the form of disconnected quotes:

On the convention coverage and how “there’s no news here”: “Just because the parties lay out a script doesn’t mean reporters have to follow that script. There’s still news here, it just has to be uncovered. That requires some digging.”

On traditional vs. new media: “The big media are a part of the system. New media’s bottom line is not tied to the status quo.”

On what the hell happened: “Too many of our newsrooms are owned by too few international corporate entities.” On how to fix it: “There is no more independent newsroom than a newsroom of one.”

On how anti-war voices were treated before the war: “It isn’t enough to say we didn’t know. If [information questioning the administration’s rationale for war] it got noticed at all, it was at the bottom of the newscast after a story about how to get a better deal on your summer rental.”

On the difference between covering this convention and covering his first, in ’56: “What has changed the most is the character of news ownership.” He talked about the tremendous pressure on his bosses to pull him off the Watergate story or at least scale it back. “My bosses took the heat so I didn’t have to. It is rare now for that to occur … Overall the reigning media mandate is to provide return for their shareholders not just annually but quarterly, sometimes monthly.”

On journalists in general: “Fear is not characteristic of the American character and it should not be characteristic of American journalism.”

On how we unfuck ourselves: “American journalism is in need of a spine transplant. Let it begin today with the work of the people in this room.”

On what ownership model in media is the best, corporate, government, nonprofit, private: “We need diversity in news outlets but what we need most is for a few news company owners to have a spine, to have guts, to say that news is a public service and a public trust.”


9 thoughts on “You Shall Not Side With The Great Against The Powerless

  1. That’s great, Danny boy. But you didn’t live up to those standards back in 2002/2003, if my memory serves me well. And don’t tell me you were some struggling reporter, relying on your bosses to keep the heat off of you. You were a multi-millionaire. You could’ve spoken truth to power all day, and then, if the shit came down, still go roll around in your giant piles of money.
    I’m glad you’re finally at the party, podna, but you are a little late.

  2. That’s the trick…don’t get lured into the money, I mean the Big Money.
    [looks for tip jar]
    great pix
    I am so glad you are there! Thanks

  3. TKK: Ah HA! You let her go! I have in on RECORD! Now I’m next in line! (After Mr. A of course)
    I’m REALLY looking forward to the trial where Dan Rather show just how his bosses subverted the process. I also would LOVE to know the REAL story behind the production of the “kerning in the memo” as in “Who tipped off Buckhead to look at the authenticity of the memo.”

  4. Well, well, well…
    Would Dan go on NPR and say these things?
    Would Howard Cronkite and Ted Koppel back him up?
    Because it’s going to take “trusted” voices to rattle the media conglomerates out of the mindset of “reduce, reuse, regurgitate.”

  5. What’s the frequency Kenneth?
    Newsroom of One? Hey, that’s pretty much what most papers are becoming.
    At least he sees the value of an alternative.
    Disconnected quotes and Dan Rather is redundant.

  6. A friend of mine here here in Chicago (Lew Koch) is a journalist who used to work at NBC, Chicago Tribune, etc. Back in the 60’s & 70’s, there was something called The Chicago Journalism Review. It was a small but well read & respected industry rag that was an edited forum for people to give reviews, criticisms, or to more or less call bullshit on reporters or news outlets that were doing a poor job.
    Rather’s comments, specifically the Newsroom of one comment, holds a lot of credence. We still hear about the unreliability of blogs – but while there is no central forum (currently) that allows bloggers to criticize, review or call bullshit, word of mouth does get around. This is the first convention to be so heavily blogged, so at least their increased acknowledgment of them is promoting credence to the public.
    As for the digging comment, something I have noticed is that a lot of bloggers are doing what the mainstream media is – waiting for the press handouts, waiting for sources to leak them something, or (maybe) asking occasional questions in moderated forums. But they’re free from some of the major companies editorial constraints. Old 1950’s/60’s techniques might prove useful. Pencils across notepads in hotels, dig thru the garbage a bit, get an aide drunk, throw a sniffer up and have a laptop gather wireless traffic on open access points and see who’s talking to who. Dirty tricks of the trade.
    Actually, on that last one – probably not the best idea to do so and publish – or do so at all. I suppose technically that would fall under the bugging/interception laws everyone gets in a huff about.
    But I think you get the general idea.

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