While Dan Rather was biding farewell on the CBS Evening News last night, a party for blogger Hugh Hewitt was taking place at the Jefferson Hotel on Sixteenth Street.
Hewitt–who both does and doesn’t look like his caricature on the Weekly Standard website–has just published a new book, “Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World.” It’s a how to for organizations or individuals.
I plan to read the book. Meanwhile, my eye fell on an appropriate text for the evening when CBS was celebrating (well, sort of) Rather’s long career. In a chapter on “The Meltdown of the Mainstream Media [MSM] and Where Its Audience Went,” Hewitt wrote:
“In the twentieth century, mighty news organizations arose that began to police the process by which news of events or ideas spread. They hired reporters and editors and went ’professional.’ Very few journalists worked alone. Hierarchies developed, and in their wake, career paths and editorial policies.
“Because senior personnel tend to hire younger versions of themselves, over time the self-selection produced generalized uniformity in outlook and worldview. Some credentials dominated, and just as resumes in the elite institutions tended to have the same sort of institutions named, the bearers of those resumes tended to have the same political views. Hire fifty reporters from the Ivy League into the New York Times, Time, or the Washington Post, and 90 percent of those young reporters will arrive carrying roughly the same point of view on, say, the desirability of unlimited abortion rights even through the last trimester.”
An outsider who hailed from a Texas teachers college, Rather may have had to work extra hard to blend in with the crowd, though I suspect that, if he had to be told which tailor to patronize for his suits, he had already embraced the right ideas. I once toiled at a provincial newspaper. I was intrigued that the kids there already had adopted the views of their big city counterparts whose career paths they hoped to emulate.
Even though I missed Rather’s last broadcast as anchor, I did catch CBS’s special on his career and his retrospectives throughout the week. He covered the big stories of his time–the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and civil rights. Important stories, but not the events through which all subsequent history might be interpreted. Hewitt points out something that happened to journalists of Rather’s generation and later: They began to actually hate the GOP.
“[H]ostility grew and became entrenched and then generational. And Nixon gave the agenda journalist a reason to hate the GOP more. And Reagan gave the agenda journalists a reason to double down on condescension. And soon elite media had drifted off into the land of the far left.”
Mark Davis of the Dallas Morning News generously thinks Rather was a good reporter who lost his objectivity along the way. Rather’s hostility to the GOP may have been behind his downfall in the form of those apparently faked memos purporting to show that George W. Bush had received favorable treatment from the Texas Air National Guard.
But what came across most of all about Rather in his final days as anchor wasn’t the bias–it was his self-importance. You have to wonder if he doesn’t somehow think he did more than just cover civil rights. He clearly doesn’t see himself as just a guy who’s had a great and lucrative career. He sees himself as a hero.
The New York Daily News’s Michael Goodwin also commented on this phenomenon this morning:
“With his career ending in a crash, and on his last day of anchoring the ’CBS Evening News,’ Dan Rather ought to benefit from the tradition of kind, decent words being said about the dearly departed. But Rather has made sympathy or even silence impossible by adopting an exit strategy that is as unseemly as it is bizarre.
“Silly me for expecting anything else.
“In a string of interviews, Rather has inadvertently revealed the raging ego that took him to the top of his business, and then took him over the cliff. ’I’m a big-game hunter,’ he told my colleague Richard Huff. ’And I’ll continue to hunt big game.’
“He also told Huff that ’after 43 years, I’ve got a lot of scars. They’re all from the front. I didn’t get it in the back because I didn’t run.’
“Analogies to hunting and running and battles and bravery — who talks about himself like that? No journalist I know. Certainly not the best ones. They’re too busy scrounging and working to think of themselves in such grandiose terms.”