Dan Rather was rather outspoken about the state of journalism today when he appeared Wednesday night on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
“American journalism in some ways has lost its guts, or it needs a spine transplant,” said Rather, 80, who’s making the talk-show rounds promoting his new memoir titled “Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News.”
The former CBS anchorman’s “spineless” comment came as he and Stewart were discussing the state of journalism today — particularly TV journalism. And Rather gave his opinion that reporters today are not as willing to confront the powerful with tough questions as they were in his heyday.
Rather made the statement after Stewart asked him if he had observed a liberal bias at CBS, or anywhere else in journalism, in his long career. And Rather said no. “That hasn’t been my experience,” he said. “Most journalists I grew up with, most journalists I worked with and practiced with, were trying to be honest brokers of information.”
But that’s when Rather said that, to him, the real problem is a kind of weakness on the part of reporters today to get tough with newsmakers, particularly politicians.
“Has television been a boon to people’s knowledge and information about politics, or has it not?” Stewart asked Rather. “Because we were talking earlier about how television changed the game. At a certain point, it seemed like television outsmarted the politicians. Has that reversed now?”
“I think it has,” Rather answered. “I think the politicians now have outsmarted television. Overall and in the main, I think television has added to everybody’s knowledge about almost everything. But like the Internet — which is now dominant in news or soon to be — [TV news] has its pluses and minuses. But each successive presidency, for example, has gotten smarter and smarter about how to manipulate the media, manipulate the press and use television to its advantage.
“And it’s also the trivialization of the news, what I call the politicization of the news [that] now results in some news networks just being partisan political propaganda.”
To which Stewart replied, sarcastically, “Really? I have not noticed that!”