Rather Talks (and Sings)

Dan Rather, who may have been out to rain on Katie Couric's parade, promote his return to TV news, or both, talked at length the other day to Rebecca Dana of the New York Observer, and the result is in the Observer's new issue. Highlights:

--Starting October 24, the hour-long Dan Rather Reports will air Tuesday nights on the high-definition channel HDNet, whose boss, Mark Cuban, has, in Dana's words, "promised [Rather] complete editorial control of the program." Rather also will do a documentary for HDNet every so often.

Dana writes that Rather "declined to say whether he himself hoped to pursue the mysterious National Guard documents that formed the basis of the [Memogate] report. Instead, he outlined three areas of coverage that he plans to focus on...the lives of soldiers and their families; the shrinking of the middle class (“although I don’t like to talk in terms of class; it’s a European term”); and the relationship between money and political campaigns...All three are topics that he believes are under-covered by the broadcast and cable news operations..."

--Mary Mapes, who produced the segment that led to Memogate, denies a Tuesday report on Radar magazine's web site that she would rejoin Rather at HDNet, but Dana notes that "Radar editor Maer Roshan st[ands] by the story."

--Dana mentions that Rather "is working on a book. 'Although I’m always working on a book,' he said. 'Who knows when it’ll be finished, and who knows what it’ll be about?'”

--During the interview, Rather sang a bit of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," and later, Dana relates, Rather "stood to go, then remembered something he wanted to say and sat down again. He began searching through his pants and jacket pockets. He produced a black leather billfold with a $100 bill sticking out. From somewhere within the wallet, he retrieved a 15-year-old Post-It note that was folded in half. On it, his children had written the lyrics to 'Paths of Victory,' by Bob Dylan. For the second time in as many hours, Mr. Rather began to sing again...'Trails of troubles,' he spoke-sung, 'roads of battle, paths of victory I shall walk.' A pause while he recalled the words. 'The evening dust is rolling. I’m walking down the track. There’s a one-way wind a-blowing, and it’s blowing at my back.'”

--And, finally: Yes, Rather is still generating Ratherisms. When Cuban's business partner, Todd Wagner, said he "thought Mr. Rather could help with a few film projects [that he and Cuban] wanted to develop," Rather told him he'd give it a shot, even though, in Rather's words, "I remember telling him that what I know about the movie business could be written on the stomach of a germ."

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters