Academic journal article Journalism History

In the Storm of the Eye: A Conversation with Dan Rather

Academic journal article Journalism History

In the Storm of the Eye: A Conversation with Dan Rather

Article excerpt

Editor's note: Dan Rather is regarded as one of America's all-time leading broadcast journalists, and he has been held in that high regard for well over a half-century, with almost half of that time spent as network news anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News.

Rather attended what is now Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and worked at KSAM radio and two wire services. He then worked for the Houston Chronicle and as news director of CBS affiliate KHOU -TV before joining the CBS television network in 1961.

He has functioned as CBS News' White House correspondent, foreign correspondent, London bureau chief, host of both 48 Hours and 60 Minutes and, while in various roles including evening news anchor, was identified as being prominently involved in many historically significant news stories, ranging from his reporting on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the more recent terrorist attacks on America on September 1 1, 2001.

Rather aho began his network career with coverage of some critically acclaimed news accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, including reports from Birmingham, Alabama, and later from the jungles of Vietnam at the height of that military conflict. This interview includes a wide-ranging discussion of major issues and figures in the field of broadcast news with whom he closely worked and by whom he was influenced, including CBS News executives Fred Friendly, Bill Leonard, and Robert Chandler.

As of this writing, he is the host of the cable news magazine program Dan Rather Reports over the AXS. TV network (formerly HD Net), and his most recent book, Rather Outspoken, chronicles his long TV career, including key stories involving all of the U.S. presidents since John F. Kennedy, including his conflict with the White House of President Richard Nixon, who regarded him as "an enemy" due in part to his network's Watergate coverage. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that began in 1979, Rather reported from the field and the reports helped the growth of the CBS Evening News' audience. Lt was Uter revealed that his reports also pLyed a role in moving Congressman Charlie Wihon to try to help mujahideen fighters, leading to a CIA operation supplying aid and arms, which was also said to have contributed to the Soviet withdrawal from that country.

Rather gained additional recognition for his critical reporting on the Iran-contra issue, which led to a live, on-air confrontation with U.S. Vice President (reorge H.W Bush. On that occasion. Vice President Bush made reference to a "dead air incident" involving Rather, saying: "I want to talk about why I want to be president, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me. And I don't think it's fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?" Rather ignored the comment for the most part, adding only that the two subjects were not of comparable importance.

Rather later conducted an interview with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, in which the leader asserted there was no powerful or quick strike that a people could deliver against his nation, whatever their overall military power, then adding: "The United States depends on the Air Force. The Air Force has never decided a war in the history of wars. " Hussein's interview with Rather was broadcast August 29, 1990. On February 24, 2003, Rather conducted another interview with Hussein before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. In that interview, Hussein invited Rather to serve as moderator of a live TV debate between himself and President George W. Bush. That debate never took place. Hussein was captured, imprisoned, and executed. More recently President George W. Bush's military record was called into question in a 60 Minutes report hosted by Rather. His latest book includes in-depth reporting on his departure from CBS News, and his subsequent lawsuit against that network for breach of contract. …

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