Oct 14 2008 12:30PM EDT
Rather: Fear Shouldn't Be in a Journalist's DNA
Dan Rather has gone from being a pillar of the press to a fierce critic of it.
At Time Warner's Politics 2008 Summit, the former CBS anchor made some noise this morning, turning a panel on media bias into a forum for his complaints about the creeping timidity he sees in journalism.
"The press, in the main, has been in a defensive posture for some time," he said, opining that complaints from conservatives, in particular, have succeeded in engendering "self-censorship" by big media organizations. "The press should be independent with a capital 'I.' Fiercely independent and even ornery from time to time."
He picked up this theme again at the conclusion of the panel, delivering a peroration that drew spontaneous applause from the audience:
No one is fearless, but fear shouldn't be in the DNA of an American journalist.... American journalism stands for clear-eyed, well-researched, know the facts, look 'em in the eye, ask 'em the tough question, don't back down, don't back away, just keep coming. That's the kind of coverage the American public deserves.
It's not the kind of coverage the American public has been getting from the presidential debates, however, Rather said.
"First of all. these aren't debates. Let's get that straight right from the beginning. They are a something, but they're not debates."
"These so-called debates are put on by the two major political parties, for the two major political parties and their candidates," he added. "These so-called debates are not by the people, for the people. They are by the parties, for the parties. That's what's wrong with them."