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A 33-year career in broadcast news, including lengthy stints with CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes, gave this writer and producer an ideal perch from which to view Texas-born newshound Dan Rather, the subject of Lone Star: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather.
Can you point to any news story in particular that represents Rather at the top of his game? I’d say Watergate. It wasn’t a television story—there were no real pictures to show—and the Washington Post was clearly in the lead. But Dan did everything he could to advance it. [Post executive editor] Ben Bradlee later acknowledged that, while his paper owned the story, CBS took it national.
How did he become undone by Memogate? Dan smelled a scoop. He bought into [his producer’s] belief that the documents were proof positive that the president had ducked his National Guard commitment. As the Springsteen song goes, he was “blinded by the light.” I wrote this book to put his career in perspective, so that fifty years of reporting would not be written off by one final mistake.
Rather has agreed to do a hard-news show on Mark Cuban’s HDNet. The alliance is a good fit. Cuban has no problem allowing Dan to go anywhere he wants and report anything he wants.
How do you feel about the state of broadcast journalism? I don’t know of anyone who’s happy about it. The networks simply won’t give their news divisions the airtime they need. We have become marginalized and increasingly irrelevant.