Dan Rather's 60 minutes are up [Editorial] [Back]
National Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Sep 25, 2004. pg. A.19
[The article below is but one of a large number criticising other news-media outlets. For a long time The Post even published a regular "CBC Watch" to allege unfairness and ethical infractions by that institution.]
Dan Rather has always cast himself as more than just a talking head. He is not only CBS's high profile news anchor. He also serves as the managing editor of the CBS Evening News.
This fact alone would be enough to counsel for Mr. Rather's resignation in the wake of the network's airing of a 60 Minutes II story based on bogus documents pertaining to George W. Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service. The scandal has not only embarrassed and compromised the credibility of CBS. Like the New York Times's Jayson Blair scandal in 2002, it has undermined the credibility of all journalists.
Mr. Rather and his colleagues reported on the fake documents despite the fact they had been received from a secondary source, despite the fact two experts had warned they weren't real and despite the fact they contained a host of modern typographical features that rendered them suspicious even to a layman's eyes.
Worse, Mr. Rather chose to stubbornly defend the documents' authenticity long after it had become clear they were fakes, dismissing critics as partisan political operatives, rather than trying to determine the truth of their claims. Once a full retraction was compelled, Mr. Rather persisted in arguing that the documents, though fake in form, were still accurate in substance.
We accept the newscaster's assurances that there was no ill intent behind any of these moves: Like his colleagues, Mr. Rather no doubt believed the Bush documents were real. But Mr. Rather is widely known to dislike Mr. Bush. And his actions bespeak a newsman whose desire to believe the worst of the President led him to compromise journalistic safeguards. Given this, it is unlikely Mr. Rather will ever be able to play the role of trusted news anchor again.