Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Death of CBS News

"This instrument [Television] can teach, it can illuminate, yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extant that human beings are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it's nothing more than lights and wires in a box".

Edward R. Murrow
October 28, 1958

Dan Rather's departure from CBS News last week was but another reminder of all that has been lost at an organization that was once known as "the Cadillac of broadcast journalism".

I'm just barely old enough to remember November 22, 1963 (I was born on August 16, 1958). In those days, whenever a major news story was breaking, you automatically went to CBS News - no questions asked. Think of its history: Edward R. Murrow, Eric Severeid, Charles Collingswood, Walter Cronkite; Those sons-of-bitches had gravitas, baby!

Those days are long gone. The refusal of the suits at Black Rock to stand by their man is final proof that CBS's glory days are long behind it. When, that same week, they announced that they were replacing the great Bob Scheiffer on the CBS Evening News with someone of the journalistic stature of Katie Courac, that did it. When it comes to getting the news, "cute and perky" doesn't really work for me. Maybe she'll surprise us. When Mike Wallace arrived at the company in 1962, no one took him seriously either. Although he had hosted a critically acclaimed interview program on New York's Channel 5 in the fifties called, Night Beat, he was primarily remembered by many for his work as an actor on Broadway and his commercials for Parliament Cigarettes. By 1968 Wallace had proved his worth to such an extant that legendary producer Don Hewitt decided to team him up with the late Harry Reasoner for a brand new "magazine" program to be called "60 Minutes". The rest, as they say, is history. Can Katie overcome that hurdle? Maybe, but I have this funny feeling....

The biggest irony of all this is the fact that when the dust is settled, history will judge that Rather and his team were essentially correct. George W. Bush was AWOL from the Air National Guard in the seventies. His politically connected father, Congressman George H. W. Bush, was able to pull some strings to keep the despicable little half-wit from serving in Viet Nam. This is the same guy, remember, who has already sent over twenty-five hundred American kids to their deaths in a war in Iraq that was based on lies. The controversy of Rather's exit from CBS has obscured the fact that they got it right. Don't you forget it.

Dan Rather has been the whipping boy of the brain-dead,right wing of this country since the days of Dick Nixon....

Nixon: Are you running for something?
Rather: No, sir. Are you?

OK. Maybe that little exchange was a tad cheeky on Rather's part. But you've got to admit that he was (and is) a reporter's reporter. Watching his impressive career in TV news end in such an ignominious fashion is just too depressing for words. The fact that people like Rush Limbaugh are giddy with joy over his fall only bonds me to him further. [Breaking news: Rush was just busted at the Palm Beach Airport trying to smuggle in a bottle of Viagra from Mexico. So help me, I'm not kidding!]

There was always something about Dan Rather. The man's essential decency and, yes, patriotism were always visible just below the surface of his reporting. Maybe I'm deceiving myself but I don't think I am. In the week following the hideous attacks of September 11, 2001 he went on the David Letterman program and recited a little-known verse from "America the Beautiful". In the midst of it, he broke down and wept:

Oh beautiful, for patriot dreams
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears

It was as powerful a moment as I've ever witnessed on television and I'll never forget it. It revealed so much about the man.

I'll continue to watch the CBS Evening News until September when uncle Bob takes his final bow. I'll probably even tune in for the first few nights of Katie's run.(That's REALLY going to be fun to watch!) I'll also continue to watch Face The Nation every Sunday morning until they replace Scheiffer with Britany Spears. But after that, I'll be tossing CBS News to the wind....Ah, memories!

Dan Rather took a stand and paid a heavy price - just as Edward R. Murrow did fifty-two years earlier. What George Clooney's recent movie bio on Murrow failed to depict was the fact that his famous March 1954 broadcast that exposed the lies of Wisconsin senator Joseph R. McCarthy was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of the end of his career at CBS. In 1960, bitter and frustrated, he left the industry he virtually invented and went to work for the Kennedy administration as the head of the US Information Agency. He died of lung cancer on April 27, 1965 at the age of fifty-seven.

Have the execs at West 52nd street even seen the Clooney film? If they haven't, they probably should. We all should. It's a cautionary tale for our own times, as well. In 1954 there was only one Joe McCarthy. Today the congress, the White House and the main stream media are riddled with Joe MaCarthys. They have, quite literally, hijacked our national political conversation.

Goodnight and good luck.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Edward Murrow's 1958 speech on the decadence of network TV (which was heavily excerpted in the film) led directly to his exit from CBS.

Dan Rather's lack of research on one suspect document does not change the fact that George W. Bush was accepted into the Texas National Guard as a result of agitation by his powerful father.
There is nothing inherently shameful in this. I'd have dodged that draft too and so would you.

What is objectionable is this: Bush was a no-show. One dubious letter does not change the facts. But then, the facts no longer exist; Bush's file has 'mysteriously' disappeared.
Bush also poses in that ridiculous flyboy suit with carefully choreographed aircraft carriers and calls himself a 'war president'.

True fact: Every enterprise George Bush has ever run has been run into the ground. Daddy and Daddy's friends pulled his chestnuts out of the fire every time. Why should the country be treated any differently from a corporation? Unfortunately we're now in a slash-and burh economy similar to what you find in most third world countries. Chickens coming home to roost, baby.

If politics in this country had not degenerated into a shouting match between the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter this nonentity would never have been elected President. But the electorate is badly educated and follows the jackass with the loudest bray.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katie Couric will be an acceptable anchor for the corporate media. she is guaranteed not to make waves.

let's hope the internet remains free but that ain't the way to bet.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I agree with you that there was nothing dishonorable in avoiding service in the Viet Nam war - and that includes out-right draft dodging. My point is that these hideous bastards, Bush, Cheney, et.al. all avoided service during that conflict and are now such such dispicable war mongers.
Tom Degan

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
What I find especially galling is that the facts as reported by Dan rather were true - the Bushies are not denying that truth. But one bad document had the power to make that truth a kind of PS to the whole story. How? Why??
What's wrong with people? Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees: here's a prime example of that old adage!

Mary Eman

At 1:02 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...

That was probably your best posts yet! Yea, we forgot what men like Edwin R. Murrow suffered for freedom of the press. We see Dan Rather's departure from CBS as just another bit of "Business as usual", but people like you and me who have seen that there is nothing like clear and consicive reporting (and know just as surely that what we have now is nothing like it), mourn the end of an era. In this day and age when strong and uncompromising journalism is called "treason" by this administation and freedom of the press is looked uppon as a quaint notion, we have much to mourn!

Which brings us to the next question! Just what the fuck was Rush Limbaugh doing in Mexico with SOMEBODY ELSE'S Viagra!!!! Dude! That just sounds a little too kinky for me! The very fact that Rush Limbaugh can get Viagra should give us all pause!! Rush Limbaugh with an errection is sort of like equiping a rooster with training wheels! Sure we can respect the difficulty of the endeavor and all, but what possible good can ever come of it! Maybee he was down there interviewing domestic staff. I don't know, but enquiring minds want to!

Frankly though, the existence of an erection on Rush Limbaugh and the uses that he might find for it are just too disturbing to discuss! From the puritanistic drivel he spouts, he probably hangs his glasses on it while he brushes his teeth! But then again, didn't he have a lot of negative things to say about drug abuse? Hmmmmmm?

At 1:24 PM, Blogger MJW said...

Tom, I was inspired by this entry to write one in response to it. You will find it here: Rather Than Couric. I hope you enjoy it.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said back at the beginning of MemoGate that no one was questioning the facts, just the document itself. I even listed a faux conversation as I imagined it took place.

"That memo never existed."
"So the information is incorrect?"
"All I'm saying is, the memo never existed."
"Okay... but what about the information. Was it incorrect?"
"That memo never existed and you know it!"
"I concede that the memo never existed, but is it factually wrong?!"

Good Night and Good Luck was a fantastic movie. Amazing the parallels from then and now...

At 3:22 PM, Blogger azgoddess said...

thanks again for another thoughful reading

love ed murrow and all the men and women that followed him into the unemployment lines for speaking the truth...

let's hope dan rather comes online and we get to hear from him without the network filters...

as far as mr bush jr - indeed he is failing at running this country, just liked he failed at all his bizs - but will his father bail him out this time? (one would only hope)

but the more than likely truth is that mr bush sr is one of the ones with their hands in the trillion dollar iraq war pot...

closing thought - did we get into this war to bankrupt america and place that money into the hands of the rich 1 percent?

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous molel said...

The Bushes are most certainly in this "conflict" (war has never been formally declared) for the moolah. It's the family business all the way back to Prescott Bush. Doing business with anyone for anything as long as it turns a profit for themselves and thier cronies...after all, the underclass is there to serve them!
Keep prayin people!!

At 6:59 PM, Blogger cindi said...

Guess the 'net is indeed the last bastion of journalistic integrity! All the great ones have left us.

i don't know if you ever read Andy's postings, but here's one where he bitch-slaps one of the Reichwinger 'What About Clinton' sorts:


i think you & Andy would get along famously, Tom!! my newest fantasy is sitting at the same dinner table with the two of you ... replacing my OLD fantasy of dinner with Nicola Tesla & Mark Twain!!!

Keep giving us a voice, sweetie - cindi


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