In my callow youth, I toiled briefly for a daily in the red states. Were the young reporters out in the boonies more conservative than their counterparts in the big city? Tinctured by their red state surroundings? Not a bit.
You see, the ambitious ones wanted to become reporters at the big dailies in New York and Washington–this meant wearing the right ideas. Sometimes in their attempt to dress in the right intellectual attire they were more innocently knee jerk than the big guys. After all, if you want to make it, you really can’t afford to get caught gussied up in some hick ideology, can you?
If you don’t learn in the provinces, you’ll have to in the big city. Peggy Noonan, who worked at CBS and wrote scripts for Rather’s daily radio spot in her youth, has a piece on the soon to depart Dan Rather. It’s a compassionate piece, but it also has this nugget that made me think of all those young scribblers who wanted to pick up the correct idea:
“Ultimately this is what I think was true about Dan and his career. It’s not very nice but I think it is true. He was a young, modestly educated Texas boy from nowhere, with no connections and a humble background. He had great gifts, though: physical strength, attractiveness, ambition, commitment and drive. He wanted to be a star. He was willing to learn and willing to pay his dues. He covered hurricanes and demonstrations, and when they got him to New York they let him know, as only an establishment can, what was the right way to think, the intelligent enlightened way, the Eastern way, the Ivy League way, the Murrow School of Social Justice way. They let him know his simple Texan American assumptions were not so much wrong as not fully thought through, not fully nuanced, not fully appreciative of the multilayered nature of international political realities. He swallowed it whole.
“He had a strong Texas accent, but they let him know he wasn’t in Texas anymore. I remember once a nice man, an executive producer, confided in me that he’d known Dan from the early days, from when he first came up to New York. He laughed, not completely unkindly, and told me Dan wore the wrong suits. I wish I could remember exactly what he said but it was something like, ‘He had a yellow suit!’ There was a sense of: We educated him. Dan wound up in pinstripe suits made in London. Like Cyrus Vance. Like Clark Clifford. He got educated. He fit right in. And much of what he’d learned–from the civil rights movement, from Vietnam and from Watergate–allowed him to think he was rising in the right way and with the right crew and the right thinking.”