sxswi talk: Dan Rather Interview

I was surprised by the chills I felt as Dan Rather walked into the auditorium for this interview with Jane Hamsher. Used to seeing him on the kitchen TV as my Mom prepared dinner growing up, it was really cool to actually see this icon in person. He spoke a lot about how disappointing journalists are today, how they’re not doing us any favors with their soft ball interviewing and unwillingness to ask the followup “wait, you didn’t answer my question”. He was quick to say he counts himself amongst them.

Dan Rather Interview

On Journalism today

  • “Current journalism needs a spine transplant”
  • Go along to get along
  • Worried about anti patriotic/ not supporting troops
  • Patriotic journalists SHOULD be asking the tough questions/ role of press is to question Power/ checks and balances
  • Get too close to the source/ negotiate/ get on my show, etc\Reporters use source & vice versa, a s soon as he’s a “part of the team” it’s gone to far
  • Do we still believe in Independent journalism/ investigative??? Sir, you didn’t answer the question.
  • Or are they a conveyor belt?
  • “Investigative reporting”- the term SHOULD be redundant
    • Endangered species
  • Corporations owning news orgs get bigger = news gets smaller
  • Ownership is distant from newsroom
  • What’s good for the corporation as a whole, not for news
  • Investigative reporting is likely to make someone important unhappy, less likely to help with legislation, etc
  • Competition in journalism good… but there’s increasingly less competition (5 companies control ~80% non internet news
  • Press needs to play a role of watchdog (not attack dog, but barks at everything suspicious)
  • Role has been shrinking

On the Internet

  • Beatles stage (after Elvis)
  • Anonymity is a concern- no accountability
  • Over time, marketplace will balance this

“On the record” rant

  • Sideways dance, no one says “the governor said this, but it’s a lie”
  • “On the record” “on background” “on deep background” “off the record” guidelines have changed, used to be the onus of the source to ask, start with the assumption of on the record
  • What are the new rules? How can we keep our integrity with viewers
  • Only way to reach consensus is to have a informed citizens- basics of democracy
  • The American way- give me the truth, let me decide
  • People who write in to the news agencies with feedback (approval of an “investigative” reporter) are actually heard/ make a difference

Wrap up

  • TV can make important events seem smaller than they are (contained in small screen), HD helps with somewhat (plug his company)
  • Have to stop thinking of the USA as center of the universe… we’re at the point of being world leaders… things that happen far away are important and REAL and matter, feel like a video game
  • Currently works for HDnet-

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