Dan Rather Takes a Step Towards Ending Fake News.

When Dan Rather spoke, America listened. In the twilight decades of the 20th century…..

When Dan Rather spoke, America listened.In the twilight decades of the 20th century, there were only so many ways to get the news. The CBS Evening News, which Rather anchored for 24 years, was one of the major ones. Along with Tom Brokaw at NBC and Peter Jennings at ABC, Rather was among the “big three” television newsmen of a generation.Now, more than a decade after he left his perch and at 84 years old, Rather has returned to broadcasting—only this time, on Facebook.In recent months, Rather’s frequent written commentaries about the U.S. presidential election have ricocheted around the web, and in some cases gathered an enormous amount of attention. On Tuesday, after Donald Trump suggested at a campaign rally that “Second Amendment people” could act against Hillary Clinton, Rather posted a short essay on his Facebook page, imploring people to contemplate the seriousness of Trump’s comments: “This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival.”
Within hours, Rather’s post had been shared hundreds of thousands of times. By the next day, Rather told me, the post had reached an audience of some 20 million people. (Because he published it to a public page, rather than an individual profile, he’s able to see metrics about traffic to his posts that aren’t otherwise available. His Facebook page is listed under his name as part of his work with News and Guts, a production company he started in 2006.)“To find oneself speaking, metaphorically at least, to almost 20 million people—this last 24 hours has been the closest thing I have felt to the heyday of the CBS Evening News,” he said. “Particularly given the startling reaction to this most recent post, which I will tell you staggers me—frankly, I feel like I’ve been transported to very deep outer space.”Rather also feels like he’s experienced the future of journalism firsthand, he says. Facebook is in many ways deeply problematic for journalism’s business model. It exerts enormous influence on the economics of the news industry, commands a monstrous portion of online advertising revenue, and has upended the distribution of the news itself. But if the medium is the message, as the old McLuhanian adage goes, surely the story is to some extent the audience. Or to paraphrase Rather, the best reporting in the world isn’t worth a damn unless people actually see it. Right now, Facebook is where the people are.
“I’ve gone through the print era, the radio era, the television era,” he said. “I’ve become totally, completely convinced that the potential here is to reach a truly mass audience—and, by the way, a mass international audience. Facebook and its offsprings are the future. It is going to be the way for journalists to reach an audience that matters.”Of course not everything published to Facebook is instantly broadcast to tens of millions of people worldwide. Rather has a significant following already, and his comments on Trump clearly resonated with people.

“What I think these experiences with Facebook are teaching me is that there is a real thirst, a hunger, a lust—whatever verb you want to use—out there for somebody, anybody, who takes a stand back and gets what we used to call in television the wide shot of the campaign.”

Dan Rather isn’t just somebody or anybody, though, and I suspect that matters to people. The popularity of his recent post may have as much to do with Rather himself, and the era of journalism he represents, as it does with the eloquence of what he wrote. Put it this way: On a spectrum that runs from Edward R. Murrow to Chris Matthews, Rather is far closer to the Murrow side of things. (When I admitted that I have little patience for watching TV news anymore, because I often feel as though I’m being shouted at, Rather laughed: “You feel you’re being shouted out because you are being shouted at! Don’t get me started.”)

Rather has plenty of critics, too, especially among conservatives who have long complained of what they perceived to be a liberal bias. Those sorts of complaints, which feature prominently in reactions to his Facebook posts, intensified after Rather’s involvement with a botched 2004 story about George W. Bush’s military record, a controversy that resulted in several top journalists being fired.Rather still watches television news “all the time,” he says, but is reluctant to talk about what he watches most, or who he thinks is doing the best job, for fear of leaving out someone. The one name he mentioned was Jake Tapper, the CNN correspondent. Rather praised him for not only asking Trump tough questions but “following up, boring in” until Trump either answered the question or made it explicitly clear he wasn’t going to. “I tip my Stetson to him for that,” Rather said.More broadly, Rather echoed a concern that has come up among many journalists trying to cover a presidential election that is unlike anything they’ve experienced in American political reporting. For his part, Rather, who began covering presidential campaigns in 1952, called this year’s race the “craziest, wackiest, hardest to understand campaign” yet.“I want to be objective, I want to be fair, but you have to point out these things that are so extraordinary that they fit the category of news, and news that matters,” Rather said. “I’ve struggled with myself about this for a life time, and I’ve been dedicated to try to be a plain ole pull-no-punches, hard-nose reporter. But when something so extraordinary happens to have a candidate talk—even in ambiguous terms—about gun violence against another candidate, you have to say, ‘Folks, this is unprecedented.’”
Here’s some of how he put it in his recent Facebook post:

To anyone who still pretends this is a normal election of Republican against Democrat, history is watching. And I suspect its verdict will be harsh. Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with his rhetoric but still support the candidate. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the candidate. This cannot be treated as just another outrageous moment in the campaign.

Rather’s written commentary is shared widely, but he has also experimented with Facebook Live—a way of broadcasting in real time to the social platform, and a natural fit for a man who has spent so much of his career in front of a camera. As it happened, at the time of our conversation Wednesday evening, at least two news organizations had fired up Facebook Live feeds to cover a bizarre event unfolding at Trump Tower in Manhattan. A man, using a contraption made of suction cups, was trying to scale the midtown building.

The decision to broadcast such a stunt live seemed, to me, potentially problematic. (The tricky ethics around live broadcasts of this nature are nothing new: In television news, even with the possibility of a delayed feed, there have been many broadcast decisions of this nature that have ended poorly.) I wanted to know: Would Rather, were he in charge of a newsroom today, make the call to put what was happening at Trump Tower on Facebook Live?

“I think the answer’s probably ‘yes,’” Rather said. “The pressures are such now—to be fast, to be first, to be quick off the mark—that the old journalism adage of, ‘You trust your mother, but you cut the cards,’ it just can’t hold under today’s pressures. There’s a deadline every nanosecond, and that has really changed the whole base of journalism, including the journalism I do.”

The new journalism—or is it the new new new journalism?—presents its challenges, but Rather is mostly optimistic about how his industry is transforming. He plans never to retire. “I’m excited about it because the potential is almost unlimited,” he said. “I don’t want to preach about it, but certainly it causes me to re-dedicate myself to do quality journalism. I don’t profess to understand the Facebook phenomenon. I don’t understand it. I’m constantly in awe of the potential of it. We’re no longer in the early stages of the digital revolution, but who knows what’s ahead.”

  1. Go get them Mt Rather we can’t let him just slide by

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  2. Regina M Reimann February 24, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    I can remember back to when the news had to be fact checked before being aired. I believe Ronald Reagan said it was okay to not have verifiable news being aired or printed. I would love to see that requirement come back!

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  3. IMPEACH trump and his cohorts

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  4. The fact that the major news media are owned by major corporations is frightful! How can a journalist be independent if their reporting is controlled by the interests of a corporation? I do watch the major news media and take everything they report with a huge “grain of salt”. My main source of news comes from DemocracyNow hosted by Amy Goodman—- now there’s a real journalist! For the most part, BBC also is a reliable news source as well as AJ. Just out of curiosity, I checked out RT also—- not bad in terms of covering world events and certainly not biased towards Russia.! Politically, our journalists would do a great service to their audiences by exposing the corporate take over of our country—- but, would that put their jobs at risk?

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  5. When Dan Rather speaks,it is the truth so read his articles and believe every word.

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  6. Gary Ensminger April 10, 2017 at 5:03 am

    It’s sad but Trump dominates the news. Not only sad but abhoraant. How did he do that? What happened to fair and balanced? I’m sick of him so I quit watching the news. I read your articles. Why not write about that?

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  7. Ridiculous that no one remembers : Dan Rather was actually the source of the one of the first fake news of the modern era when he concocted his own story “facts” to discredit then Presidential candidate George W Bush and lost his coveted job as anchor at CBS in disgrace as a result. Also was instrumental in firing Bernard Goldberg from CBS News after he admitted that CBS had liberal bias.

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    1. It’s not true that “No one remembers” and this post mentions the event. Compared to the lie’s of the republican mud slinging machine, over the years, there’s no contest.

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  8. I can see that all the people who commented are outright liberals. Mr. Trump isn’t the only one who has erred. The fact that Hillary Clinton committed crimes when she was Secretary of State when she used her personal email to send out emails that pertained to things going on in the Country, and in Bengahzi. What about the Clinton Foundation using contributions to the Foundation for things other than the Foundation. What about her lying to the American people about what went on in Bengahzi, and the DNC telling her what questions would be asked at a debate, and the notes she tried to hide, but couldn’t. What has Trump done that merits empeachment? I have heard a lot of librals, throwing slurs around, such as Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and others. Look at all the things Mr. Obama did that could have called for empeachment. I realize that it is practically impossible for those on the left to accept any blame for what went on during the 2016 election, but it was voters like me who were so tired of all the garbage coming out of Washington, by the very people we voted in to do a job they ran on when they were elected. There are good Republicans and Democrats, and there are some very bad Republicans and Democrats. They are not concerned about taking care of the business of the American people, and it is the people who make up the Government. For every good politican, there are two bad ones. Maybe Mr. Rather should take into account that blaming one side over the other, is not true journalism. Reporting the truth is good journalism.

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