Disgraced former CBS anchorman Dan Rather continues to make the rounds, trying to rehabilitate his image and paint himself as a man wronged by an overcorporatized, politically neutralized media structure. That's no longer surprising. But why would schools of journalism gloss right over his embrace of fabricated National Guard records in 2004? Viviana Aldous at The Daily Texan reported on Rather's Thursday appearance at the University of Texas in Austin:
“Journalism continues to weather its profound changes as it transits into its digital future,” said Tracy Dahlby, director of the School of Journalism. “Rather has spent six decades getting the job done, telling people things they need to know about their world they otherwise wouldn’t. He’s done it with courage, style, wit and occasionally the controversy that [often] comes [with being a] journalist.”
Is Tracy Dahlby really expressing an opinion, or just taking politeness to an embarrassing extreme? But at least Dahlby didn't call Rather the "world's best journalist," as odd as that sounds:
Austinite Kenneth Hiller, who graduated from UT in 1980 with a bachelor’s in journalism, said Rather is the world’s best journalist, despite accusations of liberal bias.
“Anyone in the media who doesn’t go along with the governmental line automatically gets called a liberal, especially if a Republican president is in office,” Hiller said. “With Rather, that started with Nixon and Watergate. He was just being a good journalist.”
Hiller would be right only if the standard was political: "good journalism" is defined as aiding the growth of liberalism, no matter whether documents are verifiable or not. At least there was one professor who seemed willing to agree Rather was deeply wrong and not victimized:
Clinical journalism professor Wanda Cash encouraged her students to attend the lecture because Rather provides excellent context for what journalists do, she said.
“He wanted to be true so deeply that he may have forgotten the most important part of the journalistic creed: verification,” Cash said about the documents.
But it was Hiller and not Cash who was used to end the story. Aldous couldn't even acknowledge Rather used fabricated documents. She could only say "The authenticity of the documents Rather based his report on was later debated." Let's hope the Daily Texan hasn't editorialized about people who can't accept Barack Obama's birth certificate.
Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News added detail from a Saturday journalism awards luncheon at the Headliners Club in Austin. Someone asked (with obvious distaste) if it’s "news" on Fox for Glenn Beck to quiz Ann Coulter about Rush Limbaugh. Rather flattered the questioner: "One entertainer interviewing a second entertainer about a third entertainer isn't my definition of news."
But Rather "said he would oppose any effort to curtail Fox News or any other opinion outlet on radio or TV. He said even if there were a cable station of pure propaganda -- 'and we may be near that now' -- he would oppose censoring it in any way."
It’s quite rich to see Rather dissing someone else as a propagandist.