Dan Rather at 70

When asked if he thought the media’s criticisms of President George W. Bush were too harsh, CBS News anchor and SHSU alum Dan Rather’s response was exact and to the point: “In the end, it is a way of respect. It may not strike you that way. But are they going to let up on him? No, it will get worse, not better.”Things could have been worse for Rather on the night of November 7, 2000. Rather, as he covered his 12th presidential election campaign, assured viewers across American that they could take CBS’s election night projections “to the bank.” But as the night progressed, some networks, including CBS and CNN, had to make two critical withdrawals that put the presidency in a shadow of uncertainty for several weeks. According to one election consultant, the events of Election Night 2000 were “embarrassing as hell.”But the respect many feel for Dan Rather still remains.”We had a bad night. Everybody has a bad night now and again,” the 69-year-old Rather said during a recent interview on CNN’s Larry King Live. “When we have one, sometimes it’s a really bad one, and this was a really bad one. So it [a report issued by CBS about election night coverage] acknowledges that we made mistakes. It apologizes to our audience we care a lot about. It says we’re accountable. In the final analysis, responsibility for what we did was ours.”Rather, a native of Wharton, TX, has continued to be optimistic despite criticism that has come as a result of the election night debacle.”For better or for worse, I love reporting. Any good story–give me any good story and I will be very, very happy.”Rather began his journalism career in 1950 in Huntsville as an Associated Press reporter. Following this, he reported for organizations including the United Press International, KSAM Radio and KTRH Radio in Houston.Since joining CBS News in 1962 Rather has handled some of the most challenging assignments in journalism, helping him become one of the most recognizable and successful personalities on television.As chief of CBS’s Southern bureau in New Orleans, Rather covered news events ranging from the marches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”I love the news,” Rather said. “The news is addictive. I tell young journalists sometimes, be careful about news, because it is more addictive than crack-cocaine in its own special way.”Often referred to as “the hardest-working man in journalism,” Rather now divides his time between three broadcasts: The CBS Evening News, 48 Hours, and 60 Minutes II. The last three years have proved to be some of the busiest for Rather. In 1997 he reported on key stories including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the murder of Bill Cosby’s son and the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.In the spring of 1998, Rather secured an interview with President Bill Clinton, marking the president’s first sit-down interview after the Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment.Rather credits much of his success to his desire to go out and uncover the important news affecting his viewers.”I like the hunt. I think that it’s unlikely that one can be a good, much less a great reporter, unless you enjoy the hunt. I’m still trying to be a good reporter.”In addition to his television success, Rather has also been successful in the literary arena as well. His sixth book, Deadlines and Datelines, published in 1999, is a compilation of essays written by Rather for his weekly syndicated column and daily radio commentary.But with Rather’s success and recognition also comes some degree of pessimism. The website http://www.Ratherbiased.com boasts having “over 500 statements from America’s most politicized journalist,” while Reg Henry, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, asks the question: “How many goofy remarks did Dan Rather make on election night?” Despite all of the negative press, Rather isn’t going anywhere.”I hope to finish my reporting career at CBS,” Rather said. “As long as I have my health, I want to be reporting, because I really enjoy it.”When the time does come for Rather to retire, he is confident that there will be someone fully capable of taking over for him.”A lot of people could step in and do the job every bit as well and probably better than I do it. I think the quality of people coming into journalism today is by far the highest quality we’ve ever had–better educated, smarter, more mature. My concern is our ability to keep them in journalism and dedicate themselves to a life of journalism and not stray away into the great world of dot.com or IPOs or something.”It is safe to assume that news and reporting are in Rather’s blood, just as his roots will always be in Texas.”It used to be said of the old cowboys in Texas that they were crying for daylight because they just loved to herd cows,” Rather said. “When it comes to news, I’m always crying for daylight. There’s never been a day that I wasn’t just really eager to get at it.”

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