DATE: 11/24/2004 07:45:00 AM
Goodbye Gunga Dan - Dan Rather is stepping down from the CBS News anchor desk after 24 years. I know Rather is a partisan liberal and he threw journalistic standards out the window to try to make the president look bad, but I can't help but feel kind of sorry for the guy. I think part of the reason he lasted so long is that he was, for the most part, sort of likeable. Here is a guy who came from somewhat humble beginnings (no fancy journalism school for Dan) to one of the most coveted positions in journalism. One has to admire his hard work and drive, if not his particular way of reporting the news (with extreme bias).
Of course, any feelings I may have about Rather and his accomplishments don't excuse the shoddy journalism that I believe led to his retirement. He, along with Andrew Heyward and Mary Mapes (why the heck does she still have a job, by the way?) ruined the once-proud reputation of CBS News with their partisan hatchet job on the president. The use of forged documents and the desire to hold a damaging story until 36 hours before the election should inspire shame in anyone who cares about the profession of journalism.
When I was a journalism student, my professors would make a point of telling us that the profession we were about to enter was the only job in America with constitutional protection. The Founders knew a free press was essential to a well-functioning democracy. But what if the press begins to abuse its freedom? That's the question the mainstream media has forced Americans to consider. The press has great power, and with great power...well, if you've seen Spider-Man, you know the rest.
The old guard in the media is on its way out. With their passing from the scene, those entering the profession should ask themselves what type of journalists they want to become. Do they want to keep taking the media down the road of slanted stories and partisan hit pieces or do they want to be honest brokers of information? American democracy was not well-served by the media this election season. Was this year the last gasp of the old guard, or a sign of things to come?