Monday, February 28, 2005

Dissing Dan A Rather Popular CBS Pastime

Nothing like kicking a guy when he's down. It's not enough that Dan Rather will sign off from the CBS Evening News on March 9 a year earlier than he wanted after getting ensnared in the Bush Air National Guard story.
Now in The New Yorker, no less than Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt say they'd rather watch another channel come 6:30.
Wallace complains Rather's not as easy to watch as Peter Jennings, while Uncle Walter -- who's admitted to more than a few pangs of regret for vacating the anchor chair for Rather when he did -- says Rather's "showboating" by acting more like a reporter.
Meanwhile, Hewitt took note of Rather's longtime lock on third place to reflect that nobody likes a loser.
Of course, you can look at this as nothing more than a bunch of crotchety -- if still somewhat vital -- old men grousing about things because that's what guys in their 80s are particularly good at. But they may also have a point.
Still, what Cronkite may not want to acknowledge is that Rather's reportorial chops have for decades been second to none. They don't call him Gunga Dan for nothing. Which is why his comeuppance for the Memogate scandal was that much more bewildering. Even a confirmed newshound like him got tripped up by a producer who so desperately wanted a story she worked on to be true, she conveniently ignored all the red flags practically thrown in her face.
Even now, Rather is putting loyalty ahead of common sense. As he tells Ken Auletta:

"To people who have been so loyal and true, I'm not going to give up on them. If I had to move this afternoon on a big story, one that had the potential of being controversial, I'd be very happy to go on that story with the same people, each and every one."

Maybe Rather can find some level of redemption as he dons his reporter's fedora full time at 60 Minutes. Let's hope so. His legacy deserves better.

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