Journalism Institute Honors Dan Rather; He Calls for 'Trust-Busting' Our Media Monopoly

The Poynter Institute welcomed disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather to share his thoughts on his long career and on the media in general this week. In an interview with Poynter's Mallary Tenore, he complained "So often, particularly covering politics, enterprises that describe themselves as journalistic enterprises, and journalists who describe themselves as journalists, in fact just become transmission belts."

That's exactly what Poynter's interview was, a transmission belt for Rather's lamest hits, including how the press needs a "spine transplant" and his shameless insistence that his phony-documents Texas Air National Guard story is still true. If Poynter cared about the reputation of journalism, why continue to entertain and spread doubt about the falsehood of Rather's most atrocious "scoop"?

The only thing fresh here is Rather's growing socialism, as he insists (just like Bill Moyers) that money is corrupting politics and the government needs to break some alleged media monopoly where only four mega-corporations distribute most of America's news:

So number one is journalists need to get back to their business of being patriotic journalists in a free and democratic country and perform their function as watchdogs, as part of the system of checks and balances. We all know that huge sums of money are corrupting the whole political process, beginning with elections.

For example, the last presidential election in this country, when all was said and done and you put everything together, costs more than $2 billion. That's what was spent through the primaries, through the general election, all told. That money, not all of it came from special interests, but the bulk of it came from special interests -- big pharmaceutical companies, big broadcasting networks, television, radio, electronic, big labor -- and that's a very short list. But you have a more recent example here in Florida where just to win a primary, at least two candidates spend what, more than $50 million or $60 million of their own money. This has reached the serious out-of-whack stage.

So you say how can we improve coverage? Getting serious about where the money comes from, who gives it to whom, for what purpose -- and most of it is given for a purpose. The case can be made -- and I'm here to make it -- that very large, international corporations, conglomerates control the government, and I would include some elements of big labor in that.

The public is not well-served by political coverage as it is today. And I think it has to be noted, and there's no joy in noting this, that in many important ways, very big business is in bed with big government and whoever's in power in Washington, whether it be Republicans or Democrats -- not in the public interest, but in the business interest of the huge corporations and in the staying in power business of those in Washington. And this seriously affects news coverage.

Someone might say, well what is he talking about? Well let me give you an example. As recently as the 1950s, mid-1950s, there were more than 50 news enterprises, which is to say businesses, in the country that could accurately be described as having national distribution or large regional distribution.

Now, there are no more than six, and I would argue only four, very large conglomerate, international corporations who control more than 80 percent of the national distribution of news. This is out of whack. Let me pause and say I've never worked for anybody in the enterprise other than a profit-making enterprise. I believe in the capital system, but as applied to media, we have in no small degree monopolies now.

Now a great Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt did his party great service, and more importantly his country a great service, by breaking up the trust, which is to say the monopolies at the turn of the 20th century.... I'm not a business person, but in the end I think they're not in the best interest of American business. I recognize that one gets criticized very heavily when get into this area, but I'm at the age and stage in my own career where I try to draw from my experience.

I love this country, I want the country to be better for my children and grandchildren as most Americans do. And when and if the public finally get focused on this -- that too few big international companies control too much of the national news distribution -- then I think it may change. But until the public really understands what is happening with this, and understands that it is not a special pleading of journalists such as myself, can we come back to a really vibrant, truly independent, fiercely independent press that is important to the survival of freedom and representing government as we know it.

Rather should really be writing for The Nation or Mother Jones, with this kind of hard-left talk about capitalism despoiling democracy.

Poynter's Tenore is especially embarrassing when asking Rather about the latest Internet trends, where he is clearly not well versed. He claimed "There are very few journalism enterprises on the Internet" and couldn't answer whether he has his own personal Facebook page:  "I don't think so." Shouldn't a journalist who insists his craft is so grievously lacking be a little more up-to-date?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis