Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life: Taki

Article excerpt

As everyone knows, journalists tend to take themselves seriously, especially American journalists, who take themselves very, very seriously. Dan Rather was such a man, and I use the past tense because although he's still very much alive, he's no longer a big shot. Dan used to read the news on American television, and was referred to as an 'anchor'. Anchors in America make much more money than the President, and match CEOs of big corporations in terms of what they rake in. Walter Cronkite, Dan's predecessor at CBS, was always referred to as the most trusted man in America, a role the avuncular Walter revelled in. Dan took over in 1980 and got into trouble right away. He was kidnapped by a taxi driver right in Chicago and driven crazily around the town. He was released unharmed without a word. Some time later, two men accosted him on Park Avenue, sort of kidnapped him, and asked him, 'Kenneth, what's the frequency?' Then they let him go unharmed and uninformed about the 'frequency'.

These kidnappings made headlines but got me thinking that maybe Dan the Man was a bit of a showman. Then, in 2004, after close to 25 years in the driver's seat, Dan accused George W. Bush on 60 Minutes of avoiding the draft in the Vietnam era by serving in the Texas Air National Guard. He also said that Dubya was lax in flying and often went missing. Dan and his producer were accused by the Bush administration of making the whole thing up, and the neocons pushing for the Iraq war that was already one year in the making went ballistic. Dan resigned and the producer was fired by CBS.

It was the end of a showbusiness career -- one masquerading as journalism, that is. Ten years later Dan is back, in a movie this time. He is played by Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett is the fired producer. The film is called Truth , and it tells the producer's story rather than Dan's. This is as it should be. After all, the producer produces the goods, and the blowdried dummy on the screen reads them out. I hear the film is terrific. Dan the Man is portrayed by Redford with dignified folksiness and his producer is played as a highly strung journalist operating in a cut-throat climate.

I haven't seen the flick, only read the reviews, but what bothers me is its message. The cut-throat atmosphere that hacks operate in, as portrayed in the movies, is of their own making. American TV hacks invented the 'gotcha' news item, the snippet that is repeated ad nauseam. If that's journalism, I am George W. Bush's coke dealer. Which brings me to what is really wrong with the Dan Rather story. …

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